A former prison guard in Wisconsin who was accused of using an anti-LGBTQ+ slur as he threw a gay woman into a live fire and strangled her may escape jail time as result of a plea bargain that would downgrade the charges to misdemeanors with the potential for no time behind bars.
Shane Nolan, 31, was arrested and charged with multiple felonies in an attack on Dessiray Koss, 31, which took place in the early morning hours of July 3, 2021. Koss, her sister, her sister's friend, Nolan, and Nolan’s male friend were sharing drinks by an outdoor fire pit. When Nolan and Koss were briefly left alone, police and witnesses said, Nolan without provocation uttered an antigay slur at Koss, lifted her from a chair, and threw her into the burning fire, the Green Bay Press Gazette reports. After Koss crawled from the fire and attempted to fight back, Nolan strangled her while others tried to restrain him before he fled the scene, according to the police and witness accounts. Koss suffered first, second, and third-degree burns, which required plastic surgery and painful therapy to repair.
Koss, who has chosen to speak through her sister, Holly Koss, and the local advocacy group Diverse & Resilient Appleton Room to Be Safe, was not consulted about the plea bargain. She learned of the downgraded charges this week after the fact.
“Nolan’s charges originally included felony substantial battery with a hate crime modifier and misdemeanor disorderly conduct with a hate crime modifier,” Diverse & Resilient said in a statement posted to Facebook. “However, the family has learned that the Brown County District Attorney David Lasee intends to offer a plea agreement to Nolan that drops the felony and both hate crime modifiers. Dessiray, her family, and Diverse & Resilient consider this nothing more than a slap on the wrist.”
“This is a person [Shane Nolan] who engaged in a criminal act that could have killed Dessi,” Holly Koss said in a statement. “A person who commits a crime so terrible in which they hold a person in a fire because of their sexual orientation has some serious issues that will now cost his victim trauma for the rest of her life.”
Nolan had worked as an officer with the Green Bay Correctional Institute before he was fired last November. If convicted on all previous charges, he could have faced up to 10 years in prison along with up to $25,000 in fines. Koss fears Nolan could now face no further jail time for his actions, something she considers a slap on the wrist which sends the wrong message to the community.
“Accepting this plea will be a horrific choice and sends a terrible message to victims everywhere,” Holly Koss concluded.