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Wisconsin Attorney James Ritland Pleas Down to Three Misdemeanors
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James Ritland

Summary: A Wisconsin attorney was able to plea down his charges from felonies to misdemeanors for drug and prostitution-related offenses.

Black River Falls attorney James Ritland will plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges in order to avoid going to trial. Ritland is accused of trading legal services and cash for sexual favors. He is pleading to two counts of attempted adultery and one count of disorderly conduct.


Ritland, 63, is a former district attorney that attempted to run for judge in 2015. However, he finished last in a six-way primary that occurred soon after investigators started investigating him. He was the DA in Jackson County from 1981 to 1982.

The plea deal was presented to La Crosse County Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke. Ritland had a trial scheduled for August 9 for the felony charges that included soliciting prostitution and maintaining a drug trafficking place. Ritland originally stated he was confident he would be found not guilty but that apparently changed with the convincing of prosecutors and his attorney. He had tried to get the charges dismissed in December but Monroe County Judge David Rice rejected the motion. Ritland argued that he never saw the drug transactions take place so that count should at least be dropped but the judge disagreed.

The criminal complaint includes stories from multiple women about his sexual indiscretions. The first story is a woman that claims she first met Ritland in 2013 when he asked if she needed money and offered his help. She then went to his office across from the Jackson County Courthouse where she received money in exchange for oral sex and showing off her breasts.

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The second incident is a woman that worked for a time as a paralegal in his office before getting into legal trouble. Ritland offered to pay off her bills in return for sexual acts. He also allegedly gave her money to buy heroin and “shoot up in his office.” Ritland even posted bonds in Jackson and La Crosse counties so she could get out of jail.

A third woman came forward to tell the authorities that she and the second woman would go to Ritland when they were “dope sick” and needed money. Ritland would give them money if they showed him their breasts. The woman has outstanding charges but explains that receiving a deal on those charges in exchange for information on Ritland was not her motivation. Instead, she felt it “was wrong that Ritland was using drug sick girls to get his sexual pleasures.”

The criminal complaint also states that Ritland would request intercourse and paid at least one of the women to bring “other girls.” One woman explained in her complaint that Ritland offered to “work out a deal” when she was unable to pay her legal fees. She performed sexual favors five or six times. She also bought heroin out the back door of his office with the money he gave her and she would then provide sexual acts. She claims that she would use the drugs in the bathroom of his office where he would occasionally check in on her, telling her to stop using once.

A public complaint has not been filed by the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation with the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Office director Keith Sellen was not able to confirm or deny if an internal investigation has been opened by the office. State Supreme Court rules require an attorney to report misconduct to the OLR. The office would then conduct its own investigation to determine if action is needed. Professional misconduct is considered any criminal act that “reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness.”

Ritland would have faced a maximum 15 ½ years in prison for the drug trafficking charge if he had gone to trial. The prostitution charges would have been additional time.

Do you think Ritland will lose his law license? Tell us your predictions in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys caught trading legal services for sex, read these articles:




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