State representative candidate Brandon Dothager charged with violating protective order
2 Minutes, 51 Seconds
Written By Harold Harper
A Democratic candidate for the 12th District State Representative nomination faces a new criminal charge following a recent Facebook exchange, but an attorney for the candidate said he was merely exercising his right to free speech.
Brandon Dothager, a Highland precinct committeeman and candidate for the 12th District seat, was charged this month in Lake County Circuit Court with violating a protective order, a misdemeanor.
Dothager will face Democratic candidates Mike Andrade and Mike (Mad Mac) McInerney in the primary June 2. The winner in the primary will face Republican Tom Wichlinski.
Highland Democratic Party Chairwoman Marsha Novak, who filed a protective order against Dothager last year, said she went to authorities because the recent Facebook comments involved her family.
Jesse Harper, who represents Dothager, 26, said the charges stem from a “debate” on Facebook. Dothager prides himself on calling out corruption in Lake County, Harper said, adding that the charges violate Dothager’s First Amendment Rights.
“It’s just such a clear attempt at someone attempting to use the criminal justice system to silence a critic," Harper said, who at one point in the interview apologized for getting “worked up.”
In March, the Post-Tribune published an article detailing the restraining orders filed against Dothager. According to a May 11 probable cause affidavit, Dothager posted the article on Facebook and “in the comments of this post several readers post about the actual article and appear to side with Mr. Dothager on the article matter."
One commenter wrote “in defense of Mrs. Novak calling Mr. Dothager a disrespectful liar," according to court records. After they “argue back and forth” Dothager posted a screenshot of the commenter’s friend list capturing 12 names with the last name Novak, according to court records.
“At no time does Mrs. Novak comment to any of these posts and Mr. Dothager did not directly contact her. Mrs. Novak believes that this is an indirect attempt to annoy and harass her,” according to court records.
Novak told the Post-Tribune that family members whose names were included in the screen shot were upset.
“There’s got to be a stop to this,” Novak said. “All I wanted was for him to stop, and he didn’t so here we are."
Harper said that Dothager accessed the names from a public Facebook page and did not interact with the Novak family during the Facebook exchange.
“If Mrs. Novak is upset, I feel sorry for her. I feel bad about that. I’m upset everyday by stuff I see on Facebook. I don’t call the police,” Harper said. “Being upset and feeling harassed is not the same as actually being harassed and it’s not the same as actually violating a protective order."
Harper filed a motion Monday to move the pending trial outside of Lake County because given Dothager’s candidacy and “his past and current criticism ... (Dothager) does not believe it would be possible to receive a fair and unbiased trial in Lake County."
Author: ALEXANDRA KUKULKA @ POST-TRIBUNE