State v. Isaac M. Gabler, 2022AP995-CR, District 2, 04/19/23 (one-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

Gabler pled no contest to violating a temporary restraining order (TRO). The circuit court placed him on probation and denied his request to be eligible for expungement after determining that the public should be able to see that Gabler violated a TRO. Thereafter, the circuit court granted Gabler’s § 806.07 motion to vacate the underlying harassment injunction in part because the TRO upon which it was based was invalid. Nevertheless, the court affirms the circuit court’s denial of Gabler’s postconviction motion to reopen his sentencing hearing on the issue of expungement because “there was a temporary restraining order in place and that order had been violated.” (Opinion, ¶17).

The backstory here helps explain the convoluted course this case took and the eventual outcome of Gabler’s appeal. In 2020, Gabler showed up at a former high school classmate’s family’s home and told the woman’s father that “he wanted to take [the woman] so she could take his virginity.” (Op., ¶3). The woman’s father subsequently petitioned and obtained a TRO against Gabler on behalf of his daughter. At the TRO hearing, Gabler’s attorney noted that Gabler had been receiving outpatient mental health treatment and that he had “stabilized.” The night after the court granted the TRO, however, Gabler showed up at the woman’s house again and when confronted by law enforcement, acknowledged the existence of the TRO, but explained that he was “[there] to take [the woman]’s virginity.” (Op., ¶6).

Gabler’s conduct led to criminal charges, competency proceedings, and an eventual plea agreement. While charges were pending and while Gabler was receiving inpatient mental health treatment, the court also heard the request for a four-year harassment injunction, which the court granted despite the fact that Gabler did not appear in person or by phone and his attorney explained that Gabler was not competent to proceed or to understand what would happen today. (Op., ¶9).

Further, after Gabler’s convictions and after the circuit court vacated the TRO and the invalid harassment injunction, Gabler did not seek to withdraw his plea to violating the TRO, he sought only a reconsideration of the court’s denial of his request for expungement. While there are reasons to doubt the knowing, intelligent, and voluntary nature of Gabler’s plea to violating the TRO, the court of appeals was asked to review only whether the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion when it denied Gabler’s claim that the expungement decision was based on inaccurate information. (Op., ¶25).

Thus, the court’s ultimate holding is simply that the circuit court’s decision to deny eligibility for expungement was not based on inaccurate information because at the time Gabler violated the TRO, despite it later being determined to be invalid, evidence supported the court’s belief that he knowingly violated the order.