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Trial set, prosecutor tapped in January arrest

A trial date has been set in one case and a special prosecutor tapped in another in connection with a Jan. 5 arrest outside Keyport Liquor and Lounge in Superior.

Natasha Lancour, 28, of Superior goes to trial on charges of resisting or obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct March 25. Douglas County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Thimm set the trial date in response to a demand for a speedy trial from Lancour’s attorney, Rick Gondik. He said the matter has been hanging over Lancour’s head for two months.

The judge also ordered District Attorney Dan Blank to turn over findings by the Wisconsin Department of Justice as part of the discovery to prepare for trial by 4 p.m. Friday.

The investigation reviews the conduct by Superior Police Officer George Gothner, the arresting officer, and allegations he used excessive force during the arrest.

A dashboard camera in Gothner’s squad car shows the 15-year veteran of the Superior Police Department striking Lancour.

Blank advised the court that he would prefer the investigation be withheld until the middle of next week to give Bayfield County District Attorney Fred Bourg an opportunity to review the case before the information, which remains under investigation, is released.

Thimm signed the order for a special prosecutor to consider allegations against Gothner during Wednesday’s hearing; however, the judge upheld Lancour’s right to defend herself against the charges she is facing.

“This isn’t about some attorney weighing some other case,” Thimm said. “This is about Ms. Lancour’s rights.”

Gondik requested an earlier release because he’s planning a trip and will be out of the office Friday, but accepted the judge’s determination that it is reasonable to make sure Bourg has the case before it is released.

Blank said he decided to turn the Gothner case over to a special prosecutor because the case hits “a little too close to home.”

“If I don’t issue charges, I get accused of protecting someone I work with,” Blank said.

Gondik said he requested a special prosecutor be appointed because of Blank’s working relationship with Gothner.

Lancour said she’s relieved to have a trial date set in the case.

“To not be able to sleep at night, to think constantly, it’s just a relief to have a date for that,” Lancour said.

Lancour said she is confident the investigation into Gothner’s actions will vindicate her.

Blank said he had hoped a plea deal would put the matter to rest, but that was rejected.

It’s a case Gondik said he can defend in “five minutes” by showing the jury the video.

“If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how many words is a video worth,” Gondik said, referring to video of the arrest.

Blank said his strategy will be to look at the events at Keyport that night leading up to the fight in the parking lot that led to Lancour’s arrest.

According to a Superior Police Department follow-up investigation, the fight in the parking lot was the second fight police responded to that night. The first took place inside the bar around 6:48 p.m., with three separate altercations inside including an argument between Lancour and another woman, according to the supplemental report. A bartender told Sgt. Rick Hughes she had asked Lancour to leave and that she did.

Officer Gary Gothner, who stayed on the scene after the first fight, reported seeing Lancour arguing with a woman outside.

“My presence did not alter her behavior one bit,” Gothner wrote in the report dated Jan. 28. The statement is consistent with remarks made in a report about the arrest of Zachary Lancour in connection with the parking lot fight.

“Probable cause to arrest someone is a very short hurdle,” Gondik said, questioning why police hadn’t arrested Natasha Lancour sooner. “You can rest assured cops on the scene are not shy about arresting people. If Natasha had done anything that constituted a crime, police would have arrested her then and there.”

According to reports written by Sgt. Rick Hughes on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, Lancour was seen drinking a Bloody Mary that night.

Gondik admits he erred when he told the media his client hadn’t been drinking and Lancour advised him that she actually had two Bloody Marys over the three-hour period she was at Keyport, he said.

According to Blank the Department of Justice report includes additional interviews with people Superior police reported in the supplemental investigation were not conducted because calls were not returned.

Gondik remains confident Lancour will prevail. He said Lancour isn’t charged with any of the events leading up to the fight outside Keyport that night and there’s nothing illegal about an adult having a couple of drinks.