By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Verdict in Kennedy trial delivers three guilty charges
Crawford County Circuit Court
Kennedy and Eisenberg await the verdict
Attorney Stephen Eisenberg, left, and his client Lee J. Kennedy waited in the courtroom for the verdict in the early evening hours of Thursday, Nov. 24.

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Lee J. Kennedy was found guilty of all three felony charges at his jury trial in Crawford County Circuit Court on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. 

After the jury was polled and each juror affirmed their vote on each charge, Kennedy slumped forward on the defense table and had a medical emergency. 

A Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputy stepped forward and began giving assistance to Kennedy. She asked Kennedy questions and tried to calm him by orienting him to his surroundings. 

Crawford County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Ryan Fradette used a manila folder as a fan to try to get air to the defendant. Others worked to get him upright in the chair and remove his outer shirt.

The jury, still seated in the jury box after being polled, watched the scene unfold in shock. At that point, Judge Lynn Rider told the jurors that they were free to leave and did not have to stay. All 12 jurors, who had just spent almost seven hours deliberating, left immediately.

Becky Kennedy, Lee’s wife, had fallen forward from her seat in the front row and laid on the floor pushed against the railing separating the front row from the defense table. She sobbed and was comforted by family members.

Lee Kennedy’s mother leaned over the railing telling her son she was there for him.

Paramedics arrived and took over treating Kennedy. They connected him to a monitoring machine and began asking him questions.

A gurney from the ambulance was brought to the second floor courtroom and Kennedy was loaded onto it.

One paramedic was heard to remark that she thought Kennedy might be suffering from an anxiety attack.

The three felonies of which Kennedy was convicted include: 

• first degree reckless injury–use of a dangerous weapon  

• first-degree recklessly endangering safety–use of a dangerous weapon 

• endangering safety by reckless use of a firearm

Cumulatively, Kennedy faces up to $150,00 in fines and up to 57 years and six months in prison.

Defense Attorney Stephen Eisenberg stopped to make a brief statement, as he prepared to leave the courthouse Thursday night.

“I’m very surprised by the verdict,” Eisenberg said. “I do not think there was enough evidence to find Mr. Kennedy guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Crawford County District Attorney had a diffferent opinion.

“The people of Crawford County should applaud the Wisconsin Department of Justice and our local sheriff’s department for their diligent and impressive work in investigating and handling this case,” Crawford County DA Lukas Steiner said after the trial. “We are pleased with the jury’s verdict.”

Kennedy, 49, was accused of shooting Jason Melvin in the early morning hours of October 25, 2019. Melvin was driving his truck away from Lee’s RV,  which was parked at a hunt club in rural Eastman. A shot shattered the back window striking Melvin in the head.

Jason Melvin and Jen Glass had met Lee Kennedy earlier in the evening at the Main Street Bar in Eastman. Melvin and Glass agreed to give Lee Kennedy a ride back to his RV, when it was determined that he was too intoxicated to drive.

Melvin, 49, was critically injured by the gunshot to his head. He was initially treated at Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien and then Med-flighted to UW Hospital.

Melvin attended every day of the trial in a wheelchair. He was present Thursday night, when the verdict was read.

During the trial, Melvin testified briefly to the lasting effects of the head wound. He spoke clearly and distinctly. He was the state’s  final witness.

In answer to questions from Wisconsin DOJ Assistant Attorney General Adrienne Blais, Melvin affirmed that on October 24, 2019 he was a landscape contractor and owned a company called ‘9s.’

Melvin also agreed that all changed on October 25, the day he was shot in the head. The landscaping contractor career was over.

“With the rehab I’ve been through, I have trouble with details,” Melvin explained. “Specifically, I have trouble with clocks, deductive reasoning and money.”

Attorney Blais asked what he remembered about the night of October 24.

“I do not have much memory for most of what happened,” Melvin replied.

Attorney Eisenberg did not question Melvin.

What’s next for Lee J. Kennedy?

Given the abrupt end to the trial because of Kennedy’s medical emergency at the defense table, it is somewhat unclear what will happen next.

Kennedy remained free on bond Friday afternoon and was not an inmate at the Crawford County Jail, according to authorities. 

Kennedy also was not listed as a patient at Crossing Rivers Health on Friday afternoon, He was taken to Crossing Rivers by Tri State Ambulance following his medical emergency in the courthouse on Thursday night.

The next court activity in the trial is a status conference scheduled for Friday, Dec. 3.