Superior, Wis. lawyer blames stress for alleged assault on teen sons
SUPERIOR, Wis. - Superior defense attorney Richard Gondik on Tuesday defended himself against allegations that he physically abused his 14-year-old son at their home on Easter Sunday. He blamed the incident on the emotional stress his family has been under as a result of a tumultuous and sometimes confusing divorce.
Gondik, 47, the father of four children, was arrested at his Town of Superior home Sunday night after his 17-year-old son reported that his father had assaulted his 14-year-old brother. Gondik said the boys came after him with a spade and a baseball bat after he tried to make them do some simple household chores.
"People should know that Rick Gondik loves his children -- each and every one of them equally and unconditionally, regardless of their behavior and language," he said during a more than an hourlong interview in his Superior law office Tuesday afternoon. "But the public should know that if they come at Rick Gondik with a bat and shovel he'll defend himself."
Gondik said that's what his two teenage sons did after he locked them out of the basement to get them to do some chores he had asked them to do Sunday.
He said the incident started about noon when he asked the boys to haul some plastic storage totes and bags from the basement to the garage as part of spring cleaning. Hours went by and the boys weren't getting the job done, he said. He then put the books, toys and other household items outside the basement door and locked the door so that the boys would stay outside and move the items to the garage, as he asked.
Gondik said the 17-year-old started pounding on the locked door with a spade. He said he told the boy to just move the goods to the garage and "you guys can come back in.''
He said the 14-year-old then started banging on the door with a baseball bat. "He's usually very sweet,'' Gondik said of the boy. "But he said, 'Open the f------ door or I'm going to break the door down and bash your f------ head in,''' Gondik said. "This was off the charts, and out of character for him.''
Gondik said his ex-wife asked him to take the bat from the boy. Terri Gondik, a kindergarten teacher,
didn't return phone messages Tuesday asking for her version of events.
According to a Douglas County deputy's report:
"Based on the fact that there was a physical altercation between Richard and [the boy], there was noticeable physical injuries to [the boy] and that [the boy] and Terri both stated that the injuries were caused after [the boy] was pushed to the ground by Richard -- after the bat had been taken away -- the decision was made to arrest Richard for physical abuse of a child.''
According to police reports, the 14-year-old sustained a number of abrasions to his right arm and his father also was bruised.
Gondik told the News Tribune that after he took the bat away from the boy, he put his hand up to try to get the boy "to keep his cool.''
"He reached out and scratched me and I brought my hand up by his throat and told him to knock it off,'' Gondik said. "I released my grip and he gave me a roundhouse to the jaw. He hit me two or maybe three times. I don't remember. The whole thing goes down in three to five seconds.''
Gondik said the 14-year-old then tried to come up the outside steps. "He's pushing up at me and I'm trying to hold him back,'' he said. "He fell and scraped his arm on the fake rocks or concrete steps. The 17-year-old then came at me with the shovel. I held the bat up and he struck it with the shovel, brushed my hand and got me a little on the shoulder. He retreated and called police.''
Gondik spent Sunday night in Douglas County jail on a preliminary charge of felony physical abuse of a child before being released Monday on a $1,000 signature bond. "It was horrible,'' he said of the experience. "Everybody there was cordial and businesslike and it was very educational. I got to see what a client goes through and I don't say that flippantly.''
The defense attorney has not yet been formally charged. Typically, when a lawyer or law enforcement officer is accused of wrongdoing in the jurisdiction they live or work, a special prosecutor is assigned to review the case.
Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank was out of his office Tuesday and unavailable for comment. Gondik's initial court appearance is scheduled for April 30. The defendant was ordered to have no violent or abusive contact with his 14-year-old son. He said both boys continue to live with him and his ex-wife.
The couple was divorced on Aug. 26 after a 26-year marriage. They also have two adult children.
Gondik said both of his teenage sons have been under stress because of the "mass confusion,'' of their mother and father being divorced but still living together with them. He said he purchased the house back from his ex-wife and she was living there until finding a place of her own.