Retzlaff tells court she’s penniless, homeless

Judge allocates bond money she posted to help find attorney to represent her
Shawano-Menominee County District Attorney Greg Parker, left, listens Aug. 11 in the county board room at the Shawano County Courthouse as defendant Ann Retzlaff and Judge Mark Moran discuss the process for getting Retzlaff an attorney. (Lee Pulaski | NEW Media)
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Ann Retzlaff is penniless and homeless, she told the judge handling her criminal charges from Shawano and Menominee counties during a hearing on Aug. 11.

The hearing was scheduled to discuss bond reduction prior to Retzlaff getting out of jail, but Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Mark Moran also had set up the hearing for a status conference to see if Retzlaff had hired an attorney.

Retzlaff is facing felony and misdemeanor counts of bail jumping for not appearing in court in November 2021. The owner of Annie’s Campground near Gresham is also facing two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct during her arrest April 20 in Wittenberg on body-only warrants and her subsequent processing in the Shawano County Jail.

This is on top of the original charges stemming from a police chase through two counties back in May 2021, which include fleeing and eluding officers and two counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety, as well as a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer. She also faces misdemeanor charges through Menominee County for resisting and failing to stop.

Retzlaff had been in jail due to her inability to pay a $25,000 cash bond ordered by the court, which Moran later lowered to $15,000. She had objected to that amount, as well, but court records show the bond was posted by credit card on Aug. 3 and her new residence to be on County Road V in Reedsburg.

Retzlaff has claimed that she had traveled to the Menominee Reservation to rescue a woman who was her employee and was allegedly being sex trafficked from a home there when she was pursued by law enforcement.

Retzlaff said at the Aug. 11 hearing that she is unable to hire counsel because she had to sell her truck in order to pay for the $16,000 in bonds from both counties to get out of jail, which has left her with nothing. Her business, Annie’s Campground, is in receivership and in the process of being sold to help pay off $1.5 million owed to Bank First. Retzlaff lived on the property previously and is currently staying with a relative in Reedsburg.

“It took everything I had. I had to sell my truck in order to come up with the cash,” Retzlaff said. “I have nothing to live on right now. I am officially homeless.”

Despite claims that her business is “being stolen” from her, Retzlaff said financial records indicate she still has the campground as an asset, which makes her ineligible for receiving a public defender.

Moran agreed to use some of the bond money she has recently posted to get a court-appointed attorney to represent her for her criminal case, to which she has maintained her innocence and previously told the judge she wants a “trial by jury.” Retzlaff expressed an interest in having public defender Elizabeth Stockbridge represent her, but since Stockbridge only serves the public defender’s office, Moran said she could not be tapped to represent Retzlaff.

“Elizabeth Stockbridge was wonderful. I really liked her,” Retzlaff said.

She added that because of the receivership, she has no access to the business accounts or the revenue and is not running the business.

“I have been diligently trying to get assistance,” Retzlaff said. “It’s very frustrating.”

Moran noted that any court-appointed attorney would be paid $100 per hour from the bond Retzlaff has posted.

Retzlaff claimed that she has been trying to meet with Shawano-Menominee County District Attorney Greg Parker about the case since May 2021 but has not received any response from him. She has been acting as her own counsel throughout, claiming in recent months that it was impossible to find an attorney while being incarcerated.

“I would prefer to communicate and come up with some sort of solution so we’re not wasting the court’s time and can talk like two civil adults,” Retzlaff said. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a Bar attorney, but I do have a constitutional right to defend or prosecute on my own behalf. I would just like to be able to do that.”

A few minutes later, Retzlaff said she does not feel safe returning to Shawano County until the case is resolved. She noted that she has lost her driver’s license for a five-year period, and that she would have to travel 2½ hours one way to seek counsel in Shawano County, so she requested seeking attorneys in Sauk County, where she is currently.

“There are a lot of things that are coming to a head right now, and I don’t feel safe,” she said.

Parker said that he could not speak one-on-one with Retzlaff, since she has requested to have an attorney represent her.

Retzlaff admitted she has not been able to keep up with things being her own counsel in the case.

“I know I need help,” Retzlaff said. “I have to be able to talk with the court, and I can’t speak the language, so I see the benefits of having an attorney help me through this process, because it has been exceptionally frustrating — as much for me as it is for you, your honor.”

Moran set up a status conference at the Shawano County Courthouse for 9 a.m. Sept. 13, at which point he expects to listen to recommendations from Retzlaff about who could represent her. If no attorneys can be found in the next month, Moran will appoint someone himself.