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.

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