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Former Police Officer Accused Of Reckless Homicide Case Will Stay In Milwaukee County For Now

The Milwaukee County Courthouse in downtown Milwaukee.

The criminal case concerning Michael Mattioli, a former Milwaukee police officer who is charged with reckless homicide in the death of Joel Acevedo, for now will take place in Milwaukee County.

A motion to move the trial was made by Mattioli’s lawyers who argued that because of media coverage and public attention, it would be impossible to have a fair trial in Milwaukee. That motion was denied Monday by Circuit Court Judge Michelle Havas who argued it’s too early to make that call.

“It would be premature for me to make a determination as to whether an impartial jury can be found within Milwaukee County or an impartial trial can be held here,” said Havas.

Acevedo died after being put in a chokehold by Mattioli, a then off-duty Milwaukee police officer, back in April.

The night of the incident, Mattioli was detained in a squad car for approximately four hours before being arrested. During that time, Mattioli was not questioned, not handcuffed, nor was he immediately taken to jail. Instead, he was driven to the hospital, and according to Judge Havas, he was allowed to go to the bathroom and brought something to eat by officers.

“He was driven to the safety building, you know, to use the bathroom. Officer Dallon said a number of times we're going to let you rest. We're going to get you something to eat. They brought food for him, didn't appear that it was very appealing from what I saw on the video, but I think he ate he ate some of it,” she said.

During this time, Mattioli repeatedly said he was going to file a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department and asked multiple times for his union representative and a lawyer. The detectives did not heed Mattioli’s requests, which his lawyers argued was a reason to throw out statements made by Mattioli after he was taken into custody. That motion was denied by Judge Havas.

“He is someone who is intimately familiar with those rights based upon his employment. He used the word 'detained prior to being placed in custody,' and at the time that he indicated that he would. I'll tell you what happened, he did not invoke, therefore, I am going to deny your motion to suppress his statements,” she said.

The defense also argued that Joel Acevedo's medical records should be subpoenaed. Mattioli's lawyer Craig Powell said the records could show that it was not Mattioli’s chokehold that killed Acevedo, but a history of asthma and substance abuse and other underlying health conditions.

“They are relevant in that they go to the cause of death determination, which is an element of the offense, the state has to prove that Mr. Mattioli engaged in reckless conduct. And that, that conduct was the cause of Mr. Joel Acevedo's death. We know as I lay out in the motion that there are, as described by Mr. Acevedo's father, serious health conditions Mr. Acevedo was experiencing previously at Froedtert hospital,” said Powell.

Ultimately Judge Havas did approve an in-camera review of the medical records, deciding that Acevedo’s medical history was pertinent to the case.

"There is information in the St. Luke's records that indicates that he had asthma medications that certainly opens the door to that there may be something there," said Havas.

Havas and lawyers from both parties will meet on April 28 to determine how the case is progressing in what is called a “status conference." The judge may ask about what information has been gathered, whether the parties have tried to settle and other pretrial matters.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Michael Mattioli's was Matthew. This has been corrected.

Angelina Mosher Salazar joined WUWM in 2018 as the Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She was then a reporter with the station until 2021.
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