Jacob Blake appears by video from hospital bed to enter not guilty pleas in domestic abuse case

Jacob Blake, lower right corner, appears by video to enter not guilty pleas in a domestic abuse case.

Jacob Blake, who was shot multiple times by a Kenosha police officer last month, made his first court appearance by video from a hospital bed Friday. 

Wearing a blue dress shirt and yellow tie, Blake waived his preliminary hearing and entered not guilty pleas to several charges that stem from a domestic incident in May.

Defense attorney Patrick Cafferty sat in a chair next to Blake, who is paralyzed from the waist down because of the police shooting. Blake appeared alert and answered all of the court commissioner’s questions.

Blake was shot Aug. 23 by Officer Rusten Sheskey, one of several officers who were responding to a domestic situation. Cellphone video taken by a bystander showed Sheskey firing seven times at Blake’s back after Blake walked away from officers and tried to enter a small SUV with his three children in the backseat. The video swept across social media and set off a wave of protests, sometimes violent, and drew the national spotlight — and presidential politics — to the lakeside city.

The investigation into the police shooting remains ongoing and is being led by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. 

After the shooting, Blake was taken to Froedtert Hospital for his injuries, where he remains for treatment. Blake initially was shackled to his hospital bed with deputies stationed in his room until the open warrant in the domestic abuse case was vacated a week ago after $500 bail was posted. The fact that Blake was handcuffed at all while paralyzed in a hospital bed outraged his family.

In the domestic case, Blake faces one felony count of third-degree sexual assault and two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing. The charges, filed July 6, are related to an incident that occurred May 3. The hearing Friday afternoon was the first court action in the case.

The court commissioner, Loren Keating, issued a $10,000 signature bond for Blake. A signature bond means Blake only has to pay the $10,000 if he fails to appear for future court dates or violates terms of his pretrial release.

Keating made the decision after hearing from Cafferty and Zeke Wiedenfeld, the Walworth County district attorney who was appointed to be a special prosecutor in the Kenosha County case.

“(Blake) does not have a prior criminal record, no convictions either in the state of Wisconsin or any other state to my knowledge,” Cafferty said. “He is a resident of Kenosha. He was employed as a painter. He will obviously meet his responsibilities to the court.”

Wiedenfeld did not oppose a signature bond and requested conditions stating Blake have no violent contact with the victim or her children, no contact at the victim’s residence, no possession of any weapons and no out-of-state travel unless it is for medical treatment.

“The state recognizes these are serious charges but also that the defendant has serious injuries and he’s recovering at the hospital,” Wiedenfeld said.

Keating, the commissioner, agreed with the conditions and bound the case over for further legal proceedings before Judge Bruce E. Schroeder. A pretrial conference was scheduled for Oct. 21.

Contact Ashley Luthern at ashley.luthern@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @aluthern.