[star]The American Mind[star]

January 20, 2006

Plea Agreement in Tire Slashing Case

Milwaukee District Attorney E. Michael McCann's office is known as a plea bargain machine. Conservatives were pleasantly surprised when his office took the Milwaukee 5 to trial. Prosecutors went through eight days of testimony and arguments and put it in the jury's hands. Until a few hours ago it seemed like we would have a verdict, but that wasn't the case. Prosecutors gave up at the first sign of a deadlocked jury and cut-and-run by handing out plea bargains:

In an unexpected twist in the Election Day tire slashing trial, four former Kerry-Edwards campaign staffers, including the sons of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) and former Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, have agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanors. Prosecutors will recommend probation sentences as part of the deal.

The plea agreements came in the middle of jury deliberations after an eight-day trial on felony property damage charges that carried potential 3 1/2 year prison terms upon conviction.

The surprise resolution was offered by prosecutors at 2 p.m., nearly 7 hours into deliberations and an hour after a jury note complained of an impasse.

Defendant Justin Howell was the only one of the five charged not included in the deal. The no contest pleas have not been formally made yet, but when they are, jurors will be left to deliberate the felony charge against Howell.

In the end those interested in justice and fair elections should have never put their faith in E. Michael McCann. This case once again demonstrates the soft-on-crime approach that's plagued his career.

[via Brian Fraley]

UPDATE: The blogswarm has begun:

  • Peter DiGaudio:
    Simply amazing. I for one am not surprised at all. Some of the jurors no doubt believed the rant that the Republicans were so evil that whatever means used to steal the election justified the means. Some were just unable to connect the dots. The anti-Bush hatred on the Left coupled with the desire for Democrats to regain power has created this atmosphere, and some of these idiots actually got on the jury.

    What happened? In all likelihood the ones that hung the jury are people who loved and admire Gwen Moore and Marvin Pratt and hate George W. Bush so much that they could never send Moore's and Pratt's criminal sons to jail ó which is where they belong. People like this will never hold their people accountable for anything they do.

  • Kevin @ Lakeshore Laments: "Guess it was the local Democrats after all."

I expect more to come.

UPDATE II (There could be a lot of these since I'm posting them as fast as I can find them):

  • Rick Esenberg:
    Speaking as a guy who has practiced law for almost 25 years, I can't imagine any self-respecting lawyer doing this. If you wanted to let these guys cop to a misdemeanor and walk away, I am sure that deal could have been made without going to the time and expense of a trial. To do it because you get a note that the jury thinks its deadlocked after six hours is silly. Judge Brennan was absolutely correct in observing that six hours is not a long time to deliberate after a seven day trial and undeniably right in telling them to continue. It really is hard to avoid at least the suspicion that the DA's office saw this as an opportunity to bail on what it saw as a no-win situation. I don't see how it is a reasonable compromise by a prosecutor who wants a conviction. Why, after devoting just about all the resources that you are going to have to devote, would you, essentially, let the defendants go at the first small sign that you might not win?

  • Charlie Sykes wonders if "the lack of a guilty plea also mean[s] that the defendants and Milwaukee's own congresswoman will continue to insist that they are innocent?" Short answer: YES!


  • The Wisconsin GOP responds to this injustice:
    The Republican Party of Wisconsin is disappointed that the penalty for the tire slashing incident is a misdemeanor rather than a felony, with no jail time being recommended. We urge Judge Brennan to disregard the District Attorney's recommendation for probation and in turn call for him to invoke a sentence of jail time. This case shows that Democrats will stop at nothing to undermine efforts by Republicans to get-out-the-vote on Election Day and has shed light on the extent they are willing to go for their own political gain. We feel as though the penalty set forth by the District Attorney for the Democrats' attempt to undermine the election process certainly does not fit the crime. In that regard, we are ready now more than ever to move forward with Election Day reform measures at the federal and state level so that integrity may be restored to the system.

  • Owen @ Boots & Sabers:
    Like most people, I didnít think that a conviction was possible with a Milwaukee jury. I figured that a hung jury would be most likely. So, perhaps, this is the best outcome to be expected.


  • WisPolitics Courtwatch Blog reports Justin Howell, the only member of the Milwaukee 5 who didn't plead no contest, was found not guilty by the jury. [via Lakeshore Laments]

  • James Joyner was gracious enough to publicize the story and push it out to a national audience.


  • Jessica McBride puts this McCann's latest example of a lack of prosecutorial gumption in context:
    But the frustrating thing is that McCann's office has been notoriously ineffective in prosecuting election violations overall, and the vast majority of the allegations in Wisconsin have been lodged in his jurisdiction. The Gary George forged nomination papers. The smokes-for-votes scandal. The 300+ felons who voted illegally in the 2000 presidential election. Humphrey Pushcart. On and on.

    In an extremely open election system like ours (same-day registration and no photo ID requirement), it's important to have aggressive, tough prosecution of election-law violations so that there's SOME deterrent against people doing it. In that light, I almost would have preferred to see McCann's office finally up the ante and bet the house. After all, the deals were struck after only six hours of deliberations in a trial that lasted almost seven days.

UPDATE VI (Final one for this post and probably the night):

  • James Wigderson:
    Another good day for the Milwaukee District Attorney's office: nobody sent to jail. The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office, deciding they didn't want to risk a mistrial and starting all over again, instead decided to settle. Maybe they had an early tee time tomorrow.

  • Wade Lindberg @ Not quite off the deep end:
    When we respond ineffectively to terrorism, it encourages more through our apparent weakness. What do we think will happen in the next election? ..And I don't mean sugar in the fuel tank.

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Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Wisconsin at 03:29 PM | Comments (11)