MADISON — As we reported last month, Gov. Tony Evers was forced to rescind the appointment of a convicted felon facing active felony charges to his Juvenile Justice Commission.
Now, we’re learning about another Evers appointee with a history of violence — this one able to keep his record of charges secret so far.
We have reported on Dr. Charleston before. He’s UW-Madison’s deputy vice chancellor, vice provost and chief diversity officer. Evers appointed Charleston to the Governor’s Council on Equity and Inclusion.
Charleston praised the anti-racist approach in Madison schools where students are in charge, leading the curriculum 80% of the time because it “flies in the face of white western thought.” Charleston says “white folks’ identities are formed in response to racial superiority” and that people who reject the label of ‘racist” simply can’t see their racism.
As associate dean of equity, diversity and inclusion at the UW-Madison School of Education, Charleston said the school was responsible for teaching white students how “white privilege and structural racism are built into the fabric of our society’s laws, policies, and practices” – a fine description of Critical Race Theory. Also on his list: teaching white educators how not to shift the “burden of labor” onto educators of color.
Charleston said he was “inspired” by the Black Lives Matter protests that arose after the death of George Floyd, which “put him through an emotional wringer.” In a quote from an interview about Floyd, systemic racism, and Black Lives Matter with On Wisconsin, Charleston said:
Even with a PhD, I’m looked at as a criminal, and it has to be because of my color…This is a constant reminder that systemic racism does indeed exist.
But Charleston has had run-ins with the law, not because of systemic racism, but because of his actions. Because he knew his arrests would impact his career in education, he worked to make sure the records were nearly impossible to find.
Strangulation and Suffocation of a Police Officer
In 2011, Dane County accepted Charleston into the first offenders deferred prosecution program after his felony arrest on charges of the strangulation and suffocation of a Madison police officer. But you won’t find this on Wisconsin’s Consolidated Court Automation Programs, (CCAP) which provides the public access to information about court cases.
The criminal complaint lays out a striking series of events:
The band members of a Madison church, including Charleston and Officer Ward, were practicing in the church. Charleston became agitated because Ward and another band member were talking. When Charleston’s demand they “shut the f&%$ up” wasn’t immediately obeyed, he became violent. Charleston lunged at Ward, knocking him to the floor, wrapped his hands around the officer’s neck and began to strangle him.
Ward struggled but was no match for the 6’4”, 280 pound Charleston, who continued to yell while choking Ward. As Ward was losing consciousness, other band members intervened. It took them about a minute to pull Charleston off Ward, but he grabbed Ward by the throat again, tighter and longer according to the band members.
Officer Powers reports he spoke with Raymone Sanders and he stated that Charleston was upset over the song the band was practicing and said, “Can we get to my song?” Sanders said Charleston was noticeably upset with band member Ward and Charleston began to use a great deal of profanity towards Ward. Ward told Charleston if he was frustrated, he should leave.
Sanders said he looked up and saw Charleston lunge out of his chair and “spear” Ward in the chest, subsequently knocking him over backwards in the chair. Sanders said he then observed Charleston place both of his hands around Ward’s neck and he began to strangle ward. Sanders said it took jello band members approximately one minute pull Charleston off Ward. Sanders said this was brief as Charleston lunged forward again, grabbing Ward around the neck a second time. Sanders said this time it appeared as though Charleston’s grip was tighter and longer.
Dane County’s First Offenders Program allows offenders to avoid a criminal conviction and sentencing. According to its website, the First Offenders Program “has and will continue to accept persons with prior convictions.” As long as the offender successfully completes the terms of the agreement, no charges will be filed – and no records will be entered into CCAP, effectively hiding the criminal actions of the participant from the public.
Dr. Charleston was charged with felony strangulation. Fortunately, there were enough people to pull him off his victim, saving him – twice. But thanks to the Dane County First Offenders’ Program, Charleston’s case doesn’t show up in CCAP.
Was Charleston really a first offender?
Less than three years earlier, Charleston was arrested after a domestic disturbance call in Middleton involving his wife. According to the charges:
For the incident, it is requested that Lavar be charged with Domestic Disorderly Conduct. This is based on Lavar’s actions of physically grabbing and pushing (the victim) down to the coach in the residence and preventing her from getting up. This is also based on LaVar’s actions of blocking the door, along with his actions of punching the door and knocking the picture off the wall causing a disturbance.
This time, Charleston had become enraged because his wife was watching TV, and he wanted her to leave the room so he could watch what he wanted on TV, according to the complaint. She had been ill and when she argued with him, he apparently suggested she was faking, since she seemed fine. She did not want to continue the argument, so she left the apartment for under an hour.
While she was gone, Charleston became increasingly angry. When she returned, the argument escalated. He told her it was “his right” to watch TV, that they could no longer go to Milwaukee as planned because she had taken too long to return, and that “she screws everything up.” They continued to argue, and when she began to collect her belongings in preparation to leave, Charleston pushed her down onto the couch and held her there, not allowing her to get up.
Charleston, as noted above, is a large man; his wife is 4’11” and 105 pounds.
After holding her down for a period of minutes, he let her up, but blocked her exit from the room, according to the complaint. When he allowed her to leave, she went into the bathroom where Charleston punched a hole in the door. She left the bathroom, headed to the kitchen, and Charleston threw a picture off the wall, breaking the glass. At this point, his wife fled the apartment, leaving in her car. She stopped nearby with a neighbor while they called police to report the incident before she drove to Milwaukee.
Charleston was charged with Domestic Disorderly Conduct, based on his physical restraint of his wife, and the property destruction. He was released on a signature bond, and an agreement not to threaten or direct any physical violence against his wife.
After the incident, his wife wrote a letter to the Dane County District Attorney asking, as many victims in domestic disturbances do, for the charges to be dropped. She wrote that she was concerned criminal charges on Charleston’s record would harm his career prospects as an educator and employee of UW Madison.
Charleston’s Wife Exposes Worry About CCAP
In the letter, she said the incident was blown out of proportion. She tried to minimize the situation by characterizing only herself as angry, the door as weak, and implied the neighbor called the police because of her yelling. She expressed concern for her husband and how he might suffer from the charges.
She admitted that Charleston did physically restrain her from getting away from him, which she understood was grounds for arrest, but said she didn’t want him to take the blame for an argument.
She noted that Charleston worked in the Student Advocacy and Judicial Affairs Office (the entity to which victims of sexual abuse are directed to seek help) and mentions he had worked with officers and district attorneys on handling domestic cases. Finally, she said they were both aware of how CCAP worked, and that charges against Charleston would show up there and it might be difficult to determine if they were dismissed.
She asked that his name be removed from “all federal and local criminal systems.”
While conceding that the charges were warranted under the law, she wanted Charleston’s name scrubbed from any crime databases, and all evidence of the charges erased.
His wife tells us much in that letter. Charleston had worked with crime victims, so he would have been aware of actions perpetrators could take to conceal their names and records; he knew how a criminal record might harm his career. It’s possible he saw cases where victims were intimidated, cajoled or guilted into changing their story or asking for charges to be dropped, since that’s not uncommon.
Dane County Reduces Charge to a Municipal Noise Citation
It worked. The DA reduced the charge – as so often happens in domestic cases, especially those where the victim becomes an unreliable witness. LaVar Charleston pled no contest to a simple municipal citation for “excessive noise.” This type of citation does not show up on CCAP and carries only a small fine, instead of the counseling or anger management classes often required.
Escalation of Violence
Then he went on to strangle Officer Ward and – in spite of the earlier domestic arrest – use the First Offenders Program to keep that offense off CCAP, too.
As a PhD, having worked with victims of crime in positions at UW, Charleston knew how to use systemic privilege and work the system to conceal the record of his criminal arrests.
Violence Aside, Charleston is a Rising Star on the Left
Evers appointed Charleston to the Advisory Council on Equity and Inclusion in February of 2021. Later in the year, UW-Madison named him chief diversity officer, while he remained deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and vice provost.
If the Governor’s office had bothered to vet him, a search of CCAP would have turned up nothing. But it’s difficult to believe they would have had any negative feelings about Charleston’s behavior. This is an administration that cares far more about the perpetrator than the victim.
Strangling a cop? Law enforcement is just running around mercilessly killing black people because they have a vendetta against them, according to Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. As an administration committed to “Scold and Release” justice, it’s unlikely Charleston’s offenses would have stopped Evers or his team from appointing him.
The UW? Charleston has been employed by UW-Madison or UW System since 2005, so both of these incidents occurred while he was employed there.
Charleston is a product of years in the rarefied, privileged halls of academia. He learned to use the system to protect himself from not only consequences, but also public exposure. But it’s hard to say it really mattered. The left, and the UW (I repeat myself) care about appearances, too – but not the same appearances. Their concern is virtue-signaling to their BLM, anti-racism, anti-white, anti-law, anti-police supporters.
Charleston shouldn’t have worried so much.
Read more at the MacIver Institute.