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Kennedy sentenced in case of Eastman shooting
Crawford County
Kennedy sentenced
LEE J. KENNEDY TALKS with his family prior to sentencing at the Crawford County Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Kennedy was convicted of three felonies at a jury trial in November.

EASTMAN - It appeared to be the end of the strange saga of Lee J. Kennedy in Crawford County last Wednesday at his sentencing hearing before Circuit Court Judge Lynn Rider.

It all began when he accepted a ride from a bar in Eastman back to his nearby RV from Jason Melvin and Jenn Glass.

It appeared to come to an end, when Judge Rider sentenced Kennedy to six years on the first count of 1stDegree Reckless Injury by the Use of a Dangerous Weapon (a modifier). Rider declared the bifurcated sentence would be served as three years in prison and three years of extended supervision.

The judge went on to sentence Kennedy, now 49, to four years on the second charge of 1stDegree Recklessly Endangering Safety by Use of a Dangerous Weapon (a modifier).   The bifurcated sentence is two years of imprisonment and two years of extended supervision.

On the third charge of Endangering Safety/Reckless use of a Firearm, the judge sentenced Kennedy to two years with one year of imprisonment and one year of extended supervision.

Since she made the sentences concurrent, meaning they would be served simultaneously, it meant Kennedy will serve three years in prison and three years of extended supervision.

The charges and sentencing are the result of being found guilty on  all three counts by a jury in Crawford County Circuit Court on November 18, 2021. 

The charges were based on Kennedy shooting at Jason Melvin and Jen Glass as they tried to drive away from the RV parked at a hunting camp. Melvin was hit in the back of the head with a bullet and suffered massive injuries. 

The judge’s sentence fell between the recommendation of defense attorney Stephen Eisenberg, who defended Kennedy and the recommendation of Wisconsin Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Adrienne Blais, who prosecuted the case.

Eisenberg asked that Kennedy receive a sentence of five years of probation and that jail not be imposed as condition of probation. The attorney pointed out that the sooner Kennedy can begin working the sooner he can begin paying restitution to Jason Melvin.

Blais, indicating the suffering and wanton nature of Kennedy’s actions in firing the shots that disabled Jason Melvin for life, asked for a 15-year sentence with 10 years to be served in prison and five years to be served as extended supervision on the first count. The attorney also asked for eight years on the second count with five years in prison and three years of extended supervision; and on the third count she sought four-year bifurcated sentence with two years of in prison  and two years of extended supervision. She asked that all sentences run concurrently

In addition to the two attorneys, Rider heard from six witnesses and the defendant, Lee J. Kennedy. She also received 87 pages of letters speaking to Kennedy’s character from his friends and family.

The first witness to take the stand was Jennifer Glass, who was in the truck about to leave the rural Eastman hunting camp with Jason Melvin when he was shot.

Glass emphasized the extent of the injuries to Melvin and the psychological injuries she bears from what transpired on the night of October 25, 2019.

The rural mail carrier and former bartender said she believes she has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). She said she suffers from flashbacks, sleepless nights and fear of the dark.

Glass also fears Kennedy may seek revenge. She said she is always looking over her shoulder and has had a home security camera installed in her house.

Glass asked the judge to give Kennedy the maximum sentences for the three charges for which he was convicted. Maximum sentences running consecutively instead of concurrently on the three charges would’ve come to more than more than 57 years and could’ve resulted in 37 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision.

Susie Melvin, Jason’s ex-wife of 24 years, testified to the impact of the shooting on her and her three teenage children, who were 18, 15 and 13 at the time of the event. 

Susie told the judge of learning of the shooting and going to the hospital in Madison with her oldest daughter following the shooting.

Kennedy shooting victim has suffered
GETTING SOME HELP, Jason Melvin leaves the courtroom in a wheelchair following the sentencing of Lee J. Kennedy, who was convicted of shooting him. Melvin and Jenn Glass had given Kennedy a ride back to his RV from a bar in Eastman. As they left in a truck, Melvin was shot in the back of the head and must deal with the serious injuries that caused.

“Jason’s life was turned upside down,” Susie Melvin told the judge. “He needs care 24/7 and can’t dress or shower without assistance.

“Lee Kennedy changed the course of life for so many people,” Susie Melvin said.

Libbie Melvin, the family’s oldest daughter, stopped to hug her father before taking the stand.

Libbie began her testimony by acknowledging the work of first responders on October 25. At the trial, she listened to the 911 call and watched the body cam footage and came to realized how scary the situation was for the first responders.

Like her mother, Libbie recalled the morning of October 25 going to the hospital and helping her mother. She recalled that it fell to her to find the courage to tell her younger brother what had happened.

Libbie described seeing her father for the first time in the hospital.

“He was hooked up to a million machines,” Libbie Melvin recalled. “His eyes were black and blue and bulging. In the following day, he was placed in an induced coma.”

At one point, she recalled being 15 and learning to drive in the truck that he was eventually shot in.

“Mr. Kennedy you’ll never be able to understand,” Libbie Melvin said. “Mr. Kennedy, I was raised by a man who taught me to take responsibility for my actions. Sitting in that wheelchair he’s a bigger man than you’ll ever be.”

Then, it was Becky Kennedy’s turn to take the stand. She noted that she had been married to Lee Kennedy for 24 years.

She recounted how they met and ultimately married. She also noted that Lee had helped her raise two sons, Garrett and Cody.

“Lee is loved by the community,” Becky told the judge. She went on to describe Lee as an awesome husband.

“I want to grow old with this man,” Becky said. She described him as unselfish and a hard worker.

Becky noted that in all of their discussion of the incident, Lee absolutely feels horrible about and continues to pray for Mr. Melvin and his family.

Wanda Dieterich, Lee Kennedy’s older sister, also took the stand to read a statement on his behalf.

Dieterich, a licensed professional counselor, noted she had known Lee all of his life and they had been through much together.

Dieterich said her brother was remarkable, kind, cooperative, respectful and helpful. She also called him a relentless hard worker and provider for his family.

The last witness to take the stand was Lisa Andreas, a sentencing consultant and psychotherapist, hired by the defense to testify at the sentencing hearing.

Attorney Stephen Eisenberg asked Andreas what she found out when she researched Lee Kennedy’s  alcohol use.

Andreas said she recognized alcohol blackouts, something she was very familiar with and working on since 2003. 

Under questioning from Eisenberg, Andreas confirmed a person suffering an alcohol blackout can have no memory of an event. Yet, they can walk and talk and even drive a car.

Andreas said college students who have a high rate of binge drinking often suffer alcohol blackouts.

She emphasized people experiencing an alcohol blackout have no memory of events.

Eisenberg would reference the alcohol blackouts. He said an author on the subject wrote that not forming memories is different than forgetting something. 

The attorney said his client may have done this, but just doesn't remember. Eisenberg said it was consistent to what Kennedy said when he was finally taken into custody at the RV many hours after the shooting that occurred just outside the RV.

In his final statement to Judge Rider, Lee J. Kennedy said that he drank some shots with Melvin and Glass and offered them a place to stay. However, they left.

“I kicked off my boots and went to bed,” Kennedy recalled.

“I would feel worse if I knew I had done this,” Kennedy said. “If I really believed I had done this. That being said I stand here today and respect the court’s decision that I was found guilty.

“I have not consumed alcohol and have no plans to do so in the future, Kennedy said.  “It would be beneficial to me to work and pay what the court decides I should. I want to live my life purposely and others as much as I can….I ask for mercy and that you consider these things.”

In addition to the bifurcated sentence that Rider imposed ordering three years in prison and three years under extended supervision, the court ordered as conditions of extended supervision: not to possess or consume alcohol, not to enter any taverns or establishments whose primary purpose is serving alcohol; comply with any assessments as recommended by DOC and follow through with recommended treatment, to comply with random testing to ensure his compliance with no alcohol provision, not to possess or consume any controlled substances unless prescribed for him; no contact with Jason Melvin or members of his family; no contact with Jennifer Glass or members of her family; to pay restitution as determined at restitution hearing, which will take place within 90 days. Kennedy was remanded with a sentence credit of five days. The court confirmed he is not eligible for the earned release program. Court explained he may no longer possess firearms. 

“There’s so many unanswered questions,” Rider said before pronouncing the sentence. “There’s no answer to why this happened.”

The judge noted the three persons involved seemed to be getting along well talking and even exchanging phone numbers.

Rider said the crimes don’t seem consistent with Kennedy’s character. She also referenced the possibility of an alcoholic blackout brought  up  by the defense.

Rider said she didn’t see a need for deterrence of others and she didn’t see that Kennedy posed  a danger to the community. 

The judge said the one thing that needed to be addressed by the sentence was the gravity and nature of the offense. She looked to Department of Corrections Pre-Sentence Investigation recommendation for guidance, which was for three years imprisonment and two years extended supervision.