Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Prosecution Asks for $2,044 Restitution Order in Chvala Case

Prosecutors are asking that former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala pay the state back $2,044.96 for using state-paid workers on campaign duties, according to a document filed today by Milwaukee Co. Assistant DA David Feiss.

At Chvala's sentencing on Dec. 15, Dane Co. Judge David Flanagan asked the prosecutors to come up with a restitution order within 45 days. A restitution order was sent to 14 former Senate Democratic Caucus employees, and seven returned the survey.

"Of the seven surveys returned only one employee was able to provide specific information with regard to hours worked at the caucus during normal business hours on campaign activities," wrote Feiss.

The former employee said he worked 10 to 15 hours per week on campaign activities during the 2000 campaign cycle, and that half of that work was performed in the Senate Democratic Caucus office. The employee had a monthly salary of $3,209, plus fringe benefits, which was estimated at about $114.93.

"Based upon this assumption, the State calculated that the cost to the State of Wisconsin for this employee's time on a monthly basis was $511.24. The election cycle would have begun in earnest on or about July 1, 2000 and lasted for four months. Multiplying $511.24 times four months, the State calculated a restitution figure of $2,044.96," Feiss explained.

By contrast, Chvala's former colleague, Brian Burke, was sentenced to $75,000 restitution. Prosecutors have recommended $3,500 in restitution for former Rep. Bonnie Ladwig. A restitution order has not been announced in the case against former Rep. Steve Foti, but his attorney said the figure he's heard from prosecutors is in the neighborhood of $300,000.

Jensen Attorney Moves for Dismissal on Grounds of Selective Prosecution

The attorney for former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and former legislative aide Sherry Schultz filed a dismissal motion in the case today, arguing selective prosecution.

Attorney Stephen Meyer said the prosecution is a violation of his clients fifth, sixth, eighth and 14th amendment rights. He cites the fact that comparable Assembly Dems were not prosecuted, and the nearness of the '02 general election to the filing of the criminal complaint as two points for his claim. Meyer also filed a lengthy affadavit to support his motion. The affidavit includes the John Doe testimony of Assembly Democratic Caucus staffers.

See more at www.wisopinion.com and in blogger Deb Jordahl's post .

The trial for Jensen and Schultz is set to begin Feb. 21. A pre-trial motion hearing is set for this Friday at 1:30 p.m.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Jensen Cites 'Prejudicial' Coverage in New Request for Change of Venue

Stephen Meyer, the attorney for former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, has filed a motion asking Dane County Judge Steven Ebert to reconsider his earlier denial of a change of venue motion in the case against Jensen. He argues that unfair media coverage will taint the jury pool for the trial and prejudice jurors against Jensen. The former speaker is charged with three felony charges of misconduct in office and one misdemeanor charge for ethics violations by a public official.

The filing argues that in Dane County, the "prejudicial nature of the stories have magnified" in the wake of plea deals by Brian Burke, Chuck Chvala, Bonie Ladwig and Steve Foti.

From the filing:

Few, if any, potential Dane County jurors can be assumed to be free from the prejudicial stories. Few observers could deny that the media is trying to be prejudicial by the choice of words used in the stories. For example, radio, television and newspapers all use the word "scandal" when referring to the charges. By any definition, "scandal" evokes a strong negative picture. Then, add or modify this word with "widespread" and "corruption" to heighten the affect. The result in a news story versus an editorial is dynamic and unfair. ...

Rarely in Dane County has the atmosphere been so charged that the statement by one of the characters in Alice In Wonderland becomes so apt: "Sentence first, verdict afterwards."

Meyer also filed a motion asking prosecutors to turn over statements made to investigators by former GOP Reps. Steve Foti and Bonnie Ladwig. Both Foti and Ladwig entered pleas to avoid trial.

See that motion

A motion hearing in the case is set for Feb. 3 at 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Blanchard: "Other Guys Were Doing It" Is Not a Defense

-- Dane Co. Dist. Atty. Brian Blanchard says the "everybody else is doing it" defense should not be allowed in the trial involving state Rep. Scott Jensen and former Assembly aide Sherry Shultz.

The document filed with Dane Co. Judge Steven Ebert yesterday lists a number of arguments Blanchard would like to see excluded from the trial. Jury selection begins Feb. 21.

"A claim that 'other guys were doing it' is a confession, not a defense,
and it would be grossly misleading and confusing to a jury for defense
counsel to be allowed to treat this as anything but a confession at
trial," writes Blanchard to Dane Co. Judge Steven Ebert.

Blanchard has requested a hearing on the motions and on jury instructions be set for the week of Jan. 30.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Supreme Court Sends Right to Life Ad Case Back to Lower Court

By Kirsten Kukowski
For WisPolitics.com

Today the U.S. Supreme Court said a lower court should look further into Wisconsin Right to Life's challenge to federal restrictions on political issue ads.

Read the Opinion

Instead of using the case to spell out election ad guidelines, however, the court delayed a ruling until after this year's elections. But the court did overturn a ruling that prevented Wisconsin Right to Life from running ads using U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's name during his re-election campaign.

In a statement, Wisconsin Right to Life said it looks forward to the lower courts getting to the merits of the case now that one obstacle has been removed.

"Wisconsin Right to Life is asking for a grassroots lobbying exception to the McCain-Feingold law as long as the ads talk about a genuine issue before the U.S. Congress and do not mention an election."

Also, in a statement released today, Feingold called it good news that the issue-ad provisions would be in place through the next election saying, "ultimately, I believe the courts will reject challenges to the law based on ads that are intended to affect elections."

And a Common Cause in Wisconsin release said: "If WRTL prevails, then the huge loophole in federal campaign finance law that McCain-Feingold closed in 2002, will be reopened and that reform will be crippled. We expect that the Court will ultimately rule to uphold their 2003 decision affirming McCain-Feingold and bar a return to campaign electioneering masquerading as issue advocacy."

Blog Links:

News Links

Friday, January 20, 2006

Four No-Contest Pleas, One Not Guilty Verdict in Tire-Slashing Case

It's four no-contest pleas and one not-guilty verdict in the trial of five Milwaukeeans accused of slashing the tires of vehicles outside GOP headquarters on Election Day 2004.

The prosecution in the tire-slashing trial made plea agreements with four of the defendants this afternoon, charging them with misdemeanor criminal damage to property, a reduction from the felonies they were originally charged with. The fifth defendant, Justin Howell, was not included in the plea deal and the jury found him not guilty shortly after the plea hearing.

The defendants -- Sowande A. Omokunde, son of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Michael Pratt, son of former acting Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt, Lewis Caldwell, and Lavelle Mohammad -- pleaded no contest to the amended charges.

Judge Michael Brennan agreed to the amended charges and declared the four men guilty. The maximum penalty is nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine, but the prosecution recommended probation and restitution. A sentencing hearing has been set for April 26 at 8:30 a.m.

The plea offer came after a series of notes from the jury today.

One note indicated that the jury was reluctant to convict the defendants of felonies. Two of the notes used the word "hung" (as in "hung jury") and one note said jurors were "adamant" in their positions and were not likely to budge.

Fifth Tire-Slashing Defendant Found Not Guilty

Shortly after the plea hearing where his four co-defendants pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges, the jury found Justin Howell not guilty of the charges against him.

Four Tire-Slashing Defendants Plead No Contest to Misdemeanors

The prosecution in the tire-slashing trial has made plea agreements with four of the defendants in the Milwaukee tire-slashing trial, charging them with misdemeanors.

The defendants -- Sowande A. Omokunde, son of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Michael Pratt, son of former acting Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt, Lewis Caldwell, and Lavelle Mohammad -- have pleaded no contest to the amended charges. Defendant Justin Howell is not included in the plea deal.

The court agreed to the amended charges of misdemeanor criminal damage to property. The maximum penalty is nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

A sentencing hearing for the four defendants was set for 8:30 a.m. on April 26. The jury was still deliberating over Howell's case.

Tire-Slashing Trial: Jury Asks for Clarification

Shortly before noon today, the jury passed a note to the judge asking about part of the verdict form regarding charges for being a party to a crime.

Judge Michael Brennan said he couldn't specifically clarify one part of the instructions, and so told the jury to re-read the entire set of instructions they had already been given.

Brennan also said the court will be taking a break, and even if the jury decides on a verdict earlier, the earliest a verdict would be announced is 1:15 p.m.

Tire-Slashing Trial: Jury Returns for Friday Deliberations

Jurors in the Milwaukee tire-slashing trial returned his morning at 8:30 a.m. and re-started deliberations around 8:45 a.m.

Early today, jurors asked the court whether they had to return the same verdict for all defendants. The answer: theyy do not have to return the same verdict for all.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tire-Slashing Trial: Defense Again Criticizes Nat'l Workers in Closing Statement

By Dennis A. Shook
For WisPolitics.com

The trial involving five Milwaukee Democratic campaigners accused of slashing tires on Republican Party vans during Election Day 2004 has now gone to the jury. The case went to the jury shortly before 3 p.m. If members have not reached a verdict by 5 p.m., the judge said he would ask them to go home and return tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.

In closing statements this afternoon, defense attorneys questioned the veracity of the national Democratic Party witnesses who testified that the Milwaukee campaigners had committed the tire slashings.

"The state is basing its case on the word of people who were suspects themselves and admitted that they lied," said defense attorney Craig Mastantuono, representing defendant Lewis Caldwell.

Defense attorney Robin Shellow, representing Sowande Omokunde, said of the national get-out-the-vote workers, who were the prosecution's witnesses, "these people all believe they have big political futures. The last thing they want is to be accused of tire-slashing."

But Shellow maintains the car identified by a security guard at GOP headquarters on West Capitol Drive on the morning of the event was rented by GOTV worker Opel Simmons, and driven by GOTV worker Leshaunda Joy Williams.

"The burden of proof is not on the defense," she said. "If there is any hypothesis that is consistent with the defendants' innocence, then you must find the defendants innocent."

Milwaukee County Assistant DA David Feiss said the national witnesses would not have been willing to come back to Milwaukee to testify if they didn't believe they were doing the right thing.

"Why would they risk damaging their careers?" Feiss said. "I ask the jury to use their common sense."

Feiss said for all the events to end up pointing to the five defendants as committing the crime, it would have to be more than simple circumstance.

Judge Powerless to Affect Burke Sentence

In response to a prosecution request to push Milwaukee authorities to send former Sen. Brian Burke to jail, Dane County Judge William Foust said he doesn not have the auhority to affect how Burke serves his sentence.

"I lack the jurisdiction to tell the Superintendent of the House of Corrections how to run the facility," Foust wrote.

Burke is currently serving his six-month sentence under home confinement.

Read Foust's decision

See related posts:
*Blanchard Asks Judge to Clarify Sentence

*Blanchard Mulls Motion to Put Burke in Jail

Tire-Slashing Trial Set to Go to Jury

By Dennis A. Shook
For WisPolitics.com

The case against five Milwaukee Democratic campaigners accused of slashing tires on rented vans outside the Republican National Committee headquarters should be in the hands of the jury later today once each side has finishes its closing arguments.

The prosecution and five defense attorneys today can each take up to 30 minutes each to present their closing statements.

On Wednesday, the five defense attorneys moved for dismissal of the cases of each of their clients, citing a lack of anything but circumstantial evidence. But Brennan denied those motions.

Brennan also denied a joint motion that the charges against Justin Howell be dropped for lack of evidence. Attorneys maintained that the fact that little evidence was presented against him, which meant his attorney asked very few questions, would make their clients appear guilty because they were forced to ask questions to defend their clients. Brennan also denied that motion.

Earlier in the day, a bid by defense attorney Robin Shellow to cast suspicion on national Democratic campaigners for the incident was largely unsuccessful.

While Shellow as able to ask some questions related to the national get-out-the-vote campaigners, the judge refused to allow Shellow to pursue questions about where the national workers were during the slashing of tires on vans rented by the Republican party for Election Day that the five Milwaukee Democratic campaigners were charged with.

Shellow questioned the alibies of the national workers and insinuated that national workers could have been responsible for the actions.

"I am asking for a mistrial on the basis that, under the 6th Amendment, we have a right to present the defense we want to make," Shellow said, but Brennan refused to allow her to pursue her questions and denied the mistrial motion.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blanchard Witness List Includes Gard, Graber

Dane Co. DA Brian Blanchard submitted the prosecution witness list today for the possible February trial of GOP Rep. Scott Jensen.

Among the familiar names on Blanchard's list: Assembly Speaker John Gard, state GOP Chair Rick Graber, Vets Secretary and former Assembly official John Scocos, current state Reps. Friske, Stone, Meyer, Montgomery, Suder and Pettis plus former Reps. Foti and Ladwig.

Jensen Witness List Includes Fmr. Gov. Thompson

The witness list submitted to Dane County Judge Steven Ebert by Stephen Morgan, the attorney for Rep. Scott Jensen, includes an honor roll of Wisconsin political figures past and present, including former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Jensen, the former Assembly speaker, is facing felony charges of misconduct in office and a misdemeanor ethics charge. Jury selection in the case is set to begin Feb. 21, unless a plea is reached, as former lawmakers Brian Burke, Chuck Chvala, Bonnie Ladwig and Steve Foti have chosen.

The list is also applicable for the case of former legislative staffer Sherry Schultz, who is set to be tried along with Jensen.

See the list: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/Jensen_Schultz_witness_list.pdf

Tire-Slashing Trial: National Campaigners Admit Lying to Police

By Dennis A. Shook
For WisPolitics.com

Two key prosecution witnesses testifying about the tire-slashing incident at Republican Party headquarters on Election Day 2004 said yesterday they heard the five accused Milwaukeeans brag of the deed.

But defense attorneys also were able to get Levar Stoney, of Virginia, and Leshaunda Joy Williams, of New York, to admit they lied to Milwaukee Police Department interrogators shortly after the Nov. 2, 2004 incident in order to safely flee the city. Stoney and Williams both were in Milwaukee to help hype Dem turnout in the final weeks of the Kerry-Edwards presidential bid.

Both Stoney and Williams told the FBI in subsequent interviews that they heard most of the five men brag about their role in the slashing of tires on nearly 100 vehicles rented by the GOP.

Those charged are Sowande A. Omokunde, son of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., Michael Pratt, son of former Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt, Justin Howell, Lewis Caldwell, and Lavelle Mohammad. All are charged with criminal damage to property. That felony carries a maximum sentence of three and one half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Stoney testified yesterday that those charged returned to the Democratic campaign headquarters in the early morning of Election Day, bragging that they had committed the act. Stoney said he overheard a conversation in which Michael Pratt said he was able to puncture several of the tires. Stoney said he heard similar statements from three others in the group, but not from Howell.

Like Alicia Smith, of Virginia, who testified Friday, Stoney and Williams admitted they lied to Milwaukee Police interrogators so they could flee the state.

"I was fearful" to provide details, Williams testified, saying she believed the incident could ruin her political career. She currently works as an assistant to the speaker of the New York City Council. "I really just wanted to tell (Milwaukee police) only as much as I could in order to be on the next flight to New York," she said. Williams admitted to lying to police during the first and a second, nearly five-hour interrogation.

Stoney also admitted he lied to Milwaukee detectives. But when approached in Virginia by the FBI he said he deemed it his "civic duty" to admit he heard the men talk about the vandalism once they returned to party headquarters.

"There has been a pattern of lies here," said Attorney Robin Shellow, representing Omokunde, as she questioned Williams. Shellow characterized Williams as a campaigner sent to Milwaukee in the last key campaign weeks to "rally the troops" and discover where Republican Party voter suppression efforts might be taking place.

"The most important thing to you when you walked into the Milwaukee Police Department was just to find a way out of here, right?" Shellow asked.

"Yes," Williams answered.

Her cross examination is due to continue today.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Wis. Right to Life Finance Law Challenge

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in Wisconsin Right to Life's challenge to one section of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

See background on the case from the Washington, D.C.-based SCOTUSblog: http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/archives/2006/01/tomorrows_argum_30.html

Other news and blog postings about the arguments:

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Newspaper Association Files Brief in Open Records Case

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association has filed an brief in the open records case between AG Peg Lautenschlager and GOP legislators Sen. Dave Zien and Rep. Scott Gunderson.

The case involves a dispute over whether bill drafts are subject to open records laws. The WNA's filing today argues against a motion by Zien and Gunderson to dismiss the case.

Tire-Slashing Trial: GOP Official Initially Thought Pro-Kerry 527 to Blame

By Dennis A. Shook
For WisPolitics.com

A top Wisconsin Republican said that when he heard of slashed tires on vans his party had rented for 2004 get-out-the-vote efforts, his inclination was not to blame paid staffers from the Democratic Party or from John Kerry's presidential campaign. Rick Wiley, executive director for the state Republican Party, confirmed that he told a conservative magazine he thought an independent group was responsible for the vandalism.

"My gut told me it wasn't the Democrats," Wiley said, as he read his own words from a copy of the National Review. "I thought it was one of the 527s (independent advocacy groups). I didn't think anybody on the Democratic payroll would be stupid enough to do this."

Wiley testified Friday in the trial of the five Milwaukee men accused in the Election Day 2004 vandalism case -- he was called by the prosecution for the mundane reason of confirming the bills for van rental and damages, but he also answered questions on cross-examination from a defense attorney.

The Milwaukee men charged are Sowande A. Omokunde, son of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Michael Pratt, son of former acting Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt, Justin Howell, Lewis Caldwell, and Lavelle Mohammad. Both Moore and the senior Pratt were in the courtroom for parts of the trial on Friday.

Defense attorneys for the five Milwaukeeans continued to challenge testimony of a national campaigner on Friday, pointing out her differing accounts of the day's events.

Alicia Smith of Virginia, testified Thursday and Friday that she saw the five men charged return to local Democratic Party headquarters just after the time the slashing is believed to have occurred. Smith said she heard the men say, "We got 'em." Smith said she took that to mean the men had performed the vandalism which ended up with 100 tires being slashed as part of something they called "Operation Elephant Takeover." She also said they were sporting muddy clothes and shoes upon their return.

Defense attorney Robin Shellow challenged Smith's credibility, pointing to several differences between her recent testimony and statements she gave to the FBI for its report filed in December 2004. Smith acknowledged she omitted some details during the FBI investigation in order to protect herself and her political career.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Foti's Misdemeanor Plea Means He Has to Testify

In a remarkably brief hearing before Dane County Judge Steven Ebert today, Steve "Mickey" Foti, once the number two man in the Assembly, sat humbly as he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor that could send him to jail for up to a year.

Foti, now a lobbyist, is the fourth former state legislator to plead guilty to charges stemming from what's referred to as the "caucus scandal." The maximum penalty for the offense is 12 months in jail, but according to the plea agreement, Dane County DA Brian Blanchard will recommend 30 days in jail. Blanchard will also ask for two years probation.

A restitution recommendation, based on reimbursement for former legislative staffer Sherry Schultz's salary and benefits from Jan. 1998 to Oct. 2001, will be filed at a later date. Foti attorney Frank Gimbel said the figure the state has advanced is in the neighborhood of $300,000.

Ebert, who can accept or reject the plea deal, did not set a date for sentencing.

The plea agreement also stipulates that Foti cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of Schultz and former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen.

Before entering into the plea, Foti was facing a felony charge of misconduct in office.

In a statement released to the press following the hearing, Foti admitted staff were doing campaign work on state time, but did not admit that he knew it was illegal at the time.

"I regret that decisions that I made during my service as a state legislator have been determined to have resulted in my inappropriately mixing my legislative obligations with my political commitments," Foti said. "For several years, I have allowed certain of my staff to participate in partisan political activity without ensuring that taxpayer funds would not be utilized for their compensation. Had I then recognized the illegality of that practice, I could and should have prevented same."

Foti added he hopes his family, constituents and colleagues can forgive him. "I am working on seeking to forgive myself," he said.

See Foti's statement

See the plea agreement

Foti Lawyer Says Plea Was Tough Call

In comments to reporters that lasted longer than the roughly five minute hearing, Foti's attorney Frank Gimbel said his client struggled over the plea.

"This decision was a hard one for Mickey Foti to make because he has enjoyed his time in the Legislature, and he believed he was serving his party and his constituency very well," said Gimbel. "Nonetheless, this case has been going on for years, and what i think the public frequently doesn't understand is that the pendency of criminal charges against a person creates an enormous amount of pressure and anxiety on that person. And this plea was entered into after serious negotiations to move this case to some finality, and that was a significant motivating factor in the decision that my client made to have the proceedings of this day."

Gimbel said reducing the charge to a misdemeanor was important to Foti, "because it does not disqualify him from a number of potential occupational activities."

By pleading to a misdemeanor and avoiding a felony conviction, Foti's lobbying career won't be endangered by a proposed bill to keep convicted felons from becoming lobbyists. Foti's authorization to lobby for Georgia-Pacific was withdrawn last week, but the Ethics Board Web site still lists nine other Foti clients.

See his Ethics Board page

Gimbel also rebuked the notion that Foti is turning on his former colleagues. "In the perfect world anybody who's put in the position where they have to testify against somebody with whom they've had a personal relationship has great reluctance to do that. But in the real world, I think it's fair to say that the resolution of this case was made available to us as a package deal and that's what was reflected in the document filed with the court today.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Foti Plea Hearing Scheduled

According to Dane County Judge Steven Ebert's clerk, a plea hearing in former GOP state Rep. Steve Foti's case has been scheduled for tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in room 8-A of the new Dane County courthouse.

Ebert is presiding over the cases of Foti, the former Assembly majority leader, and current state Rep. Scott Jensen, the former Assembly speaker.

The judge recently presided over the plea deal of former GOP state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig.

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard sent out a media announcement this morning:

Judge Ebert has scheduled a change of plea for Steven Foti for 1:30
tomorrow (1/13) in the courtroom in the new courthouse assigned to Judge
Fiedler (8A). It is scheduled for a plea hearing only. All defendants in
the case, including Mr. Foti, continue to be presumed innocent of any
offense. This office will not have any other comment in advance of the
hearing, and I do not anticipate saying anything outside court tomorrow.

Best Regards,

Brian Blanchard

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Blanchard Asks Judge to Clarify Sentence

Dane County D.A. Brian Blanchard asked Dane County Judge Bill Foust today to clarify his punishment of former Sen. Brian Burke and to send Burke to jail for the rest of his sentence.

Burke pleaded guilty to one felony count of misconduct in office and one misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer. In November, Foust handed Burke a six-month sentence, which the Democrat is currently serving in home confinement as allowed by the Milwaukee House of Corrections.

That doesn't jibe with Blanchard's interpretation of Foust's order. "For the reasons stated by court on the record at the time of the defendant's sentencing, the court elected to impose, as part of the sentence, a straight jail sentence of six months in this case. The state submits that the court was clear in stating on the record at the time of sentencing that it viewed actual confinement for the defendant to be a necessary component of the sentence, rejecting the defendant's explicit request for a recommendation of home detention," reads the document from Blanchard.

Blanchard proposes the court give Burke's defense five days to answer his request.

See the motion: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=52413

Monday, January 09, 2006

Blanchard Mulls Motion to Put Burke in Jail

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard said Monday he's considering whether to file a motion asking Dane County Judge Bill Foust to clarify his ruling on former Sen. Brian Burke's jail sentence.

Blanchard expressed dismay this weekend that the Milwaukee County House of Corrections has allowed Burke to serve his sentence at home with electronic monitoring. Foust told WisPolitics he could not comment on the matter pending the possibility of a motion.

Blanchard sent a Corrections official a transcript of Foust's statements at sentencing to back up his belief that Burke should be in jail. Burke pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in public office and received a six month sentence.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Judge Denies Jensen, Foti Change of Venue

Dane County Judge Steven Ebert denied a motion Tuesday for change of venue in the cases against state Rep. Scott Jensen, former Rep. Steve Foti and former legislative aide Sherry Schultz. The attorneys for the defendants originally filed the change of venue motion in June of 2005.

In the ruling, Ebert left the door open for another appeal for a venue change before the trial begins on Feb. 21 in Madison.

"It is simply too early to conclude that a fair trial cannot be held in Dane County," Ebert says. "For that reason I am denying the motion for a change of venue at this time. The defendants may raise the issue again if it becomes relevant at jury selection."

Ebert also says in the ruling that he does not plan to sequester the jury, and addressed the issue of peremptory jury strikes. "I have reviewed this issue and conclude that, as to the number of strikes allowed, the defendants will have three each and the state will have four. In addition, each party will be allowed two more strikes for the two alternates," says Ebert.

One of the defendants initially included in the case, former GOP state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor count of an ethics violation by a public official last. Ladwig will be sentenced on or after March 10.

Jensen is charged with three felony counts of misconduct in office and acting inconsistently with his duty, and one misdemeanor charge for code/ethics violations by a public official. Foti is charged with one felony count of misconduct in office and acting inconsistently with duty. Schultz faces a felony count of misconduct in office and acting inconsistently with duty.

Greg Bump
JR Ross

Contact bump@wispolitics.com with tips or news items for the blog.

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