Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Judge Recommends Denial of Motions to Dismiss in Thompson Case

A federal magistrate judge has recommended Chief Judge Rudolph Randa deny two motions to dismiss felony counts facing Georgia Thompson, the DOA employee charged with inflating bid scores so a $750,000 state travel contract would be awarded to Adelman Travel.

See the recommendation.

Thompson's attorney, Stephen Hurley, has ten days to file an objection to the recommendation, according to the filing. The trial, however, is set to begin on June 5.

In a brief supporting the motion to dismiss, Hurley wrote that the indictment failed to allege private gain from the contract award.

Magistrate Judge Patricia Gorence disagreed: "Several district courts in this circuit have held that providing political advantage to another as a result of the misuse of one's public position, and thus gaining personal job security, can satisfy the requirement of personal gain."

Gorence disagreed with Hurley's assertion that Thompson had no authority to award a contract, and therefore could not have misapplied funds. "(T)he evaluation committee all but signs the contract awarded," wrote Gorence.

Hurley also argued that because the contract went to the lowest bidder, that there was no misapplication of funds. Gorence disagreed, writing "it is irrelevant whether the state recognized a benefit." Gorence further stated that the actions do not have to be for illegitimate purposes. "(I)f it were for illegitimate purposes, it would be covered by the prohibitions against embezzlement, stealing, obtaining by fraud, or conversion," Gorence wrote.

Hurley also asserted that the mail and wire fraud statue was unconstitutionally vague as applied to Thompson.

Gorence sided with the government, saying that the indictment alleges misconduct under the statute. Citing case law, Gorence wrote that "criminal liability under the mail and wire fraud statutes – particularly under an intangible-rights theory – attaches to the misuse of one's fiduciary position for personal gain."

In a brief supporting the dismissal of count two of the indictment Hurley argued the statute Thompson is charged under "is a form of petty treason legislatively contrived in slapdash fashion," that conflicts with the treason clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Gorence wrote that the honest services fraud is a different, and far less severe crime than treason, and that the statue does not conflict with the treason clause.

-- By David A. Wise

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

See a Webcast of Jensen's Sentencing Hearing

May 16: Jensen Sentencing Hearing

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Jensen Gets 15 Months in Prison, 5-Year Capitol Ban

By JR Ross
WisPolitics.com

A Dane County judge sentenced Scott Jensen to 15 months in prison and banned him from the Capitol for the length of his five-year sentence, saying the former lawmaker violated the public trust, abused his position and had helped breed contempt for the law by ignoring it himself.

Jensen showed little emotion as Judge Steven Ebert announced the sentence, which includes 45 months on supervised release, restitution and a $500 fine for each of the three felony counts on which he was convicted. He was also ordered to pay a $500 fine plus court costs on a misdemeanor count.

Ebert also ordered restitution, which will be the subject of a future hearing that will also address the legal bills taxpayers covered for Jensen as part of the caucus investigation. Dane County DA Brian Blanchard told the court those bills totaled $67,147.50.

Ebert gave a lengthy rundown in court of Jensen's transgressions, their impact on the public and various factors impacting the sentence. Ebert noted Jensen seemed to be respected and well-liked by his supporters but said Jensen had tarnished public office, a calling Jensen had referred to as a noble cause.

"I don't think anyone is going to see your actions in this case as noble; Machiavellian maybe, but not noble," Ebert said.

Jensen declined to comment to the crowd of reporters waiting for him outside the courtroom. His wife, Julie, gave a brief statement in which she thanked their supporters, particularly those in Jensen's former Assembly district in the Waukesha area.

"We all have our challenges, and you have made this one so much easier," she said.

A string of former Jensen aides were in the courtroom this afternoon, including former spokesman Steve Baas, R.J. Pirlot and Brian Dake.

Ebert ordered Jensen to report to the Dane County Jail to begin his sentence by 7 a.m. on July 15. He also scheduled a hearing July 14 on Jensen's motion to stay his sentence as he appeals his conviction. Jensen has already filed papers indicating his intention to appeal and has requested to remain free on bond while his case continues.

Blanchard declined comment after the hearing, referring reporters to his sentencing recommendation. In it, he had accused Jensen of lying repeatedly on the stand and to investigators, failing to take responsibility for his actions and stealing from taxpayers to fund his campaign machine.

In court, he said Jensen steered a long-running scheme to defraud the state out of hundreds of thousands of dollars that would still be ongoing if the Wisconsin State Journal had not written a series of stories that sparked the state's investigation.

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Schultz Gets Capitol Ban, Home Confinement

By JR Ross
WisPolitics.com

A Dane County judge called former GOP aide Sherry Schultz the "grease" that made the Assembly Republican machine function in sentencing her to four months electronic monitoring along with five years probation that includes a ban from the Capitol and its grounds. But he also said it would not be fair to treat her like two former state senators already sentenced in the scandal, rejecting the district attorney's request for six months to nine months in jail following her conviction for felony misconduct in office.

Judge Steven Ebert also said he would order restitution at a later hearing, when he also wants testimony to determine how much in legal fees Schultz may owe the state. He did not mention former Dem Sens. Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke by name. But he was clearly comparing Schultz's sentence to the nine months in jail Chvala received and the six months handed down to Burke as part of plea deals they reached with prosecutors.

Still, he said it was obvious Schultz knew what she was doing was illegal and the illegal campaigning has been a sordid affair that "has been an affront to Wisconsin's democratic traditions."

"You were the grease that helped the machine function efficiently and smoothly," Ebert said.

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Ladwig Sentenced to Home Confinement

By JR Ross
WisPolitics.com

Former state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig was sentenced this morning to 30 days home confinement on electronic monitoring, a $1,000 fine (plus court costs) and $3,500 in restitution. The sentence exceeded the plea deal she reached with the DA that included only the restitution and fine.

In issuing the sentence, Dane County Judge Steven Ebert denounced an "elite cabal" in the Capitol that has created a perpetual quest for money and power and believes its opinion is the only one that truly matters, insulting Wisconsin’s democratic ideals.

Ladwig tearfully apologized to the court, saying she realized her legacy would not turn out as she had hoped. She called the past four years the worst of her life, professed love for her old job as a lawmaker and apologized to taxpayers, staff and other legislators for what she had done, adding she had "nobody to blame but myself."

"I hope in my 12 years in office I did a little something to make Wisconsin a better place to live," she said.

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Ladwig, Schultz, Jensen Sentencings Today

Sherry Schultz has asked a judge to consider anything from a fine up to 30 days incarceration as her penalty for a felony misconduct in office conviction when she's sentenced today. The DA had asked for six months to nine months in jail with work release privileges.

Attorney Stephen Morgan filed papers Monday afternoon urging a sentence in the range between the penalty former Rep. Bonnie Ladwig received for a misdemeanor ethics violation (a fine) and the sentence of former Rep. Steven Foti on a misdemeanor charge (30 days incarceration). Ladwig, Schultz and former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen will be sentenced today for their roles in the caucus scandal. The DA has asked for a five-year sentence for Jensen with up to 20 months in prison and the rest on supervised release. Jensen has already said he plans to appeal his conviction.

If a fine is not acceptable, Schultz suggests probation for up to 18 months as an alternative to incarceration.

Morgan's filing was accompanied by 17 letters written by individuals supporting Sherry Schultz, including Scott and Laurie McCallum, the former governor and first lady of Wisconsin.

The defense also objected to an order of restitution, saying that there was "no identified victim, type of damage or loss suffered."

Ladwig's sentencing is set for 8:15 a.m., with Schultz' scheduled for 9:15 a.m. and Jensen's for 1:30 p.m.

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WPR to Feature Caucus Scandal Documentary

After 8 a.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio, hear a documentary by WPR state Capitol reporter Shawn Johnson on the story leading up to today's caucus scandal sentencing, and then Joy Cardin and her guest, Jack Lohman, executive director of the Wisconsin Clean Elections Coalition, talk about the future of cleaning up the Capitol.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Jensen Requests Bond While Seeking New Trial

By Alec Loftus
WisPolitics Staff

Former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen plans to appeal his conviction on felony corruption charges and seek a new trial, indicating in court filings today that he believes there were several errors committed during jury instructions.

The motions Jensen filed today include one seeking a limited stay of execution while the court considers his request to allow him to remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction. The request also covers any appeals he may file on a decision on his request for bond.

* See the Jensen motion for bond pending appeal
* See the Jensen motion for limited stay of execution

Attorney Robert Friebert, who represented Brian Burke in his corruption trial, argues in the filings the "dishonest advantage" jury instruction was unconstitutional because it contained a mandatory presumption that the use of state resources to promote a candidate provides that candidate with an unfair advantage.

Jensen has spent much of the past five years challenging the charges filed against him on numerous grounds, already filing an appeal with the state Supreme Court that was ultimately denied on a 2-2 vote. Friebert stressed in today's filings that he new motions were not to delay or undermine the legal process.

"His appeal is not for purposes of delay, but rather to present significant appellate issues that will be prosecuted promptly and diligently," Friebert wrote.

Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard filed a sentencing recommendation earlier this week asking for a five-year sentence, including up to 20 months in prison. He requested Jensen spend the rest of that five-year period on supervised release and asked the judge to ban him from the Capitol during his sentence. Jensen is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

Blanchard did not return a call from WisPolitics late this afternoon seeking comment.

In his motion, Friebert also argued Jensen is not a flight risk at the end of the appeal process or that he will offend again if allowed to remain free on bond.

The second motion filed today was for limited stay of execution. Friebert notes that the law allows the court to delay the commencement of a sentence for up to 60 days during an appeal.

See the sentencing recommendation

Stephen Meyer, who handled Jensen's jury trial, filed documents today arguing Blanchard's recommendation was political and unjustified.

Meyer also filed letters from more than 50 of Jensen's acquaintances urging leniency in his sentencing, citing his strong family values and personal loyalty.

Former Gov. and HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson, who is currently mulling a return to state office was among them. He wrote, "one of my strongest impressions about Scott is that he is first and foremost a family man. ... His love for Wisconsin is only exceeded by his love for his wife and children."

See Thompson's letter

Others who wrote letters include the Reverend Richard J. Sklba, Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee; Republicans Sen. Ted Kanavas and Rep. Kitty Rhoades; and Democratic Reps. Gary Sherman and Marlin Schneider. Schneider testified to Jensen's integrity during his trial.

See the list of letters submitted in support of Jensen

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

DA Wants Prison for Jensen, Jail for Schultz

Along with prison and restitution, the Dane County district attorney wants former Rep. Scott Jensen banned from the state Capitol during a five-year sentence following his conviction on three felony misconduct charges and one misdemeanor.

DA Brian Blanchard wrote in his sentencing recommendation that the image of Jensen "plying the trade of a lobbyist in the halls of the Capitol, or in any other manner counseling or consulting with elected officials, during the years following his sentencing in this case is repugnant."

Blanchard asks that Jensen be sentenced next week to five-year terms on each of the three felonies of which he was convicted. On count one, Blanchard requests 15 to 20 months in prison followed by supervised release for the remainder of the five-year term. On counts two and three, Blanchard requests 12 months in prison followed by 48 months supervised release.

Blanchard also asked for one year probation and a fine for the misdemeanor count on which Jensen was convicted. All of the sentences would be served concurrently.

The filing is particularly critical of Jensen.

"In sum, while Jensen has some favorable character traits, due in part to his apparently strong family ties, when it comes to the matters before the court, Jensen has demonstrated a character of rare and consistent selfishness, arrogance, and deceit, and complete distain [sic] for the rule of law when applied to his own conduct," Blanchard writes. "In this context, he has shown no concern for the public welfare or for the circumstances of the many persons who have, in a number of cases, all too loyally worked for him, while being paid by the public."

Blanchard requested the same ban on being in the Capitol for Sherry Schultz, calling her "a long time Capitol insider, who should not [be] allowed to use Capitol visits to enhance her business of campaign finance."

Schultz was convicted of one felony count of misconduct in office. He also recommends six months to nine months in jail for her with work release privileges, along with restitution. The filing notes restitution will be determined for both Jensen and Schultz at a separate hearing.

See the sentencing recommendation: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/060509blanchard.pdf

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