Monday, September 25, 2006

Judge Denies Green Appeal of Elections Board Order

Dane County judge Richard Niess today denied Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mark Green's request for a temporary injunction preventing the state Elections Board from enforcing a ruling requiring him to dump nearly $468,000 in PAC contributions.

Niess wrote in his ruling, "The principal reasons for the Court's denial of Green's Motion for Temporary Injunction are that Green can demonstrate neither irreparable injury if the injunction does not issue nor a reasonable probability of ultimate success on the merits of its case."

Wisconsin statutes, Niess wrote, say that "Green must subject the donation from the federal campaign to the provisions of Wisconsin law governing 'contributions' to political campaigns. Thus ... it is simply unnecessary for this Court to enter the thorny procedural and constitutional thicket created by the Election Board's actions in promulgating the Emergency Rule and issuing its Order, let alone allow it to sidetrack the Court's decision on Green's Motion for Temporary Injunction. The bottom line is that the Elections Board reached the correct result, regardless of the infirmities, if any, in its process."

The campaign immediately announced it would put $467,844 into a separate account that will not be accessed until there is a final decision from the state Supreme Court.

Green's campaign is expecting to appeal the decision all the way to the state Supreme Court, according to a statement released after the ruling.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Judge Gives Former DOA Employee Thompson 18 Months for 'Serious Offense'

By David A. Wise
WisPolitics.com

A federal judge in Milwaukee today sentenced former DOA civil servant Georgia Thompson to 18 months in prison, a $4,000 fine and three years of supervised release, saying that citizens "deserve good and honest government."

Judge Rudolph Randa cited recent cases of corruption and said, "there's been too much of this lately" in explaining his decision.

When the sentence was announced, one of Thompson's supporters broke into tears. Thompson didn't react visibly, but turned and asked her lawyer a question about appeals. Thompson is due to report for her sentence on Nov. 27. Randa said he would decide within the next two weeks on a defense motion to let Thompson stay free on bail pending appeal.

In June, a federal jury found Thompson guilty on two felony counts for steering a state travel contract to a Milwaukee travel company whose executives donated to Gov. Jim Doyle. She faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The prosecution was seeking two years in prison; her attorney was asking that she receive probation.

Thompson's attorney, Stephen Hurley, today pointed to other public corruption cases in which defendants who've "lined their pockets" have gotten lighter sentences than the prosecution recommended.

Hurley argued Thompson has led "a good and law-abiding life characterized by extremely hard work and dedication."

Hurley said Thompson was at no risk to re-offend and that the only reason to imprison her would be for a deterrent effect for others. Hurley mentioned Thompson lost her job, her home and suffered public humiliation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Campbell agreed with Hurley's assessment of Thompson's character, but disagreed that she did not benefit personally.

"She cheated the state and the people of her honest services," Campbell said. "And she did it to enhance her standing at work."

Campbell added that her public humiliation shouldn't be considered in sentencing. "It's not the press' job to punish people," Campbell said.

Campbell told the court that a lenient sentence "would send a message that the federal court in Wisconsin doesn't take public corruption seriously."

In making his decision, Randa called Thompson's actions a "serious offense" and noted that in at least one case that Hurley cited the defendant received a break for cooperating with officials. Recent coverage of high-profile cases "shows there's a deterrent in place," Randa said, but added that each case had to be judged separately.

Randa acknowledged to Thompson that "you suffered greatly from this" but added, "this comes with every sentencing."

Randa also commented on Thompson's character, citing letters he received from friends and co-workers of Thompson. Randa noted how she received praise for handling her job well and for working late, often on weekends. Randa said he agreed with the jury verdict, but said he didn't agree with the government's contention that she gained personally.

Randa's sentence of 18 months came after the prosecution adjusted its request downward from 24 months to 21 months. The prosecution's initial brief sought 24 months, citing "penalty enhancers" like Thompson abusing the public trust, causing a loss greater than $30,000 and obstructing justice by perjuring herself.

But the defense argued that it is impossible to calculate exactly how much loss she allegedly caused, putting the figure around $5,000.

Campbell called the $30,000 figure "conservative" and said Omega lost over $250,000 in profits. Redoing the RFP process would cost more than $30,000 alone, he said.

Randa sided with the government on the money figure and agreed that Thompson abused the public trust. Randa, however, characterized a statement the defense called perjury as "a harmless falsification" that did not sway the jury.

It was after Randa ruled that Thompson had not perjured herself that the prosecution adjusted its recommendation downwards.

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Thompson Gets 18 Month Sentence

A federal judge in Milwaukee today sentenced former DOA civil servant Georgia Thompson to 18 months in prison, a $4,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

In June, a federal jury found Thompson guilty on two felony counts for steering a state travel contract to a Milwaukee travel company whose executives donated to Gov. Jim Doyle.

She faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In a brief filed yesterday, the prosecution requested a sentence of two years in prison. Earlier, the defense had requested probation for Thompson.

Read pre-hearing briefs filed this week in the case: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=72572

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Thompson Sentencing Hearing Today

The sentencing hearing for convicted former DOA employee Georgia Thompson started at 9:30 a.m. in Milwaukee today.

In June, a federal jury found Thompson guilty on two felony counts for steering a state travel contract to a Milwaukee travel company whose executives donated to Gov. Jim Doyle. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In a brief filed yesterday, the prosecution requested two years in prison and also asked the judge to deny her request for bail pending appeal. Earlier, the defense had requested probation for Thompson.

Read pre-hearing briefs filed this week in the case: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=72572

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Maistelman Emails Will Not Be Part of Green's Case

E-mails uncovered showing Mike Maistelman, an attorney for the Doyle campaign, contacted individual state Elections Board members to lobby them to side against GOP gubernatorial Mark Green were not introduced into evidence at the hearing today.

"[The e-mails have] not formally been introduced as evidence, so I think the facts that were reported today speak for themselves. I have nothing more to say than that," said Don Millis, one of the attorneys for the Green campaign, in a post-hearing talk with reporters.

In the emails, attorney Mike Maistelman told the board members that the Democratic Party and the governor's campaign would give them "cover" on the issue, and that even if the case ends up in court it would be a "PR victory" for the Doyle camp.

Millis said the e-mails may show what motivated the decision. The fact they weren't brought up court today means they can't be introduced at the Court of Appeals level, Millis said.

"Well they're not in the record, that's right," Millis said.

Millis said he did not contact any board members who voted on the issue.

"The only contact I had was to contact my colleague (board member Patrick Hodan) to tell him he had to recuse himself," said Millis.

DOJ spokesman Mike Bauer said the department would look into whether the e-mails constitute a walking quorum, but said he didn't think any investigation would go beyond that."

As far as I know I don't think that's inappropriate," Bauer said. "I don't believe it's illegal"

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Green Attorney: Ruling "Hijacked" Free Speech

The state Elections Board order that Republican Mark Green's campaign divest $468,000 in federal PAC money was retroactive and "hijacked half a million dollars of Mark Green's free speech," his attorney said in court today.

Green's attorney Dan Kelly said the board's prior ruling allowing Democrat Tom Barrett to transfer his federal PAC money set a precedent that was broken by the ruling last month against Green.

"Nobody seems to know what the law is, but everyone seems to want to apply it against Mark Green," said Kelly.

Attorneys for the state Department of Justice, representing the Elections Board, argued that the Elections Board was wrong in the Barrett case, and that Green is subject to state and federal laws that allow only a one-time donation of $43,128.

See a filing from the DOJ: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/060921DOJbrief.pdf

Dane County Judge Richard Niess said at the 2 1/2 hour hearing today that he plans to have a written ruling Monday afternoon. Niess said he was trying to expedite the case because he doesn't expect to have the final word in the matter.

"Dispatch is more important than anything I have to say on the law," Niess said, saying several times throughout the course of the hearing that he expects the case to go to the Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court.

Niess later said, "I feel like a chef who dropped all the eggs and now has to make an omelette."

The individual Elections Board members named in the suit were dropped from it by the plaintiff today. Green campaign co-counsel Don Millis explained the individual members were dropped to expedite the case.

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Judge Plans Monday Ruling in Green PAC Case

Dane County Judge Richard Niess said today he plans to rule Monday on the effort by Republican Mark Green's campaign to fight an Elections Board order to divest his campaign of $468,000 in federal political action committee money.

Niess said he was trying to expedite the case because he doesn't expect to have the final word in the matter.

"Dispatch is more important than anything I have to say on the law," Niess said.

Niess is hearing arguments from each side today in a hearing that started around 1:30 p.m. and took a break around 3 p.m.

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Judge Tosses Prism Case

Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy today dismissed a lawsuit filed by a developer who claimed it was cheated out of the $55 million Kenilworth dormitory project at the UW-Milwaukee.

Malloy conceded that the bidding process seemed to be "irregular" but said the developer should have sought an injunction before construction began. He said because the contract had already been awarded and construction had begun, there was no relief the court could offer them based on current case law.

A lawyer for the plaintiff said he first would ask the judge to reconsider before pursuing an appeal.

See more background here.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Green Files for Injunction in Elections Board Case

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, the Republican candidate for governor, has filed for an injunction to a ruling by the state Elections Board ordering him to divest his campaign of $468,000 in federal political action committee money.

A 1:30 p.m. hearing has been set for Sept. 21 in the case.

In the filing, Green's attorneys argue that the Elections Board order violates the constitutional right to equal protection because it treats federal campaigns that convert cash to state campaigns differently from state campaigns that convert cash to another state campaign.

The PAC donations in question were raised while Green was still a candidate for federal office. They were converted to his state gubernatorial fund in January 2005 as part of a nearly $1.3 million transfer. The Elections Board said Green had to divest himself of any money from PACs not registered in the state, and to get under the $485,190 limit for PAC contributions in a gubernatorial cycle.

Green's lawyers also argue that the Elections Board order constitutes "retroactive rulemaking by imposing an additional registration requirement on funds that were already lawfully on hand" prior to the ruling, and orders that the cash was lawfully spent before the ruling.

In a supporting affadavit from Green Campaign treasurer Victoria Renard, she states of the $1,285,973 transferred by Green from his federal account, $503,656 was from PACs registered with the Federal Elections Commission. Of that roughly half-million in PAC money, no more than $467,884 was contributed by PACs not registered with th estate.

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State Says Court Can't Award Prism Damages

An Ozaukee Court has no authority to award damages in a lawsuit brought by a developer who claims it was cheated out of the $55 million Kennilworth dormitory project at the UW-Milwaukee after the project, according to a filing by the state.

Assistant Attorney General Richard Braun, representing the state, argues that there are four cases that set a precedent that "public bidding statutes are only for the benefit and protection of the public," making the lawsuit by developer Prism moot.

A hearing is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 21 to rule on a motion of dismissal brought by the state. Judge Paul Malloy in Ozaukee County is overseeing the case.

Prism, a three-member partnership, was originally awarded the contract in August 2003, but the project was later re-bid by the state Building Commission after another bidder raised objections to the process. A third company, Weas, was awarded the contract in March 2005 following a second bidding procedure.

The company blames former DOA Secretary and now-Doyle campaign chair Marc Marotta for engineering the re-bid, and the move came under fire because Weas executives had given donations to Doyle's campaign fund. Prism is seeking $5 million in damages.

Prism's attorney Joseph Cincotta argues the state rendered an injunction "academic" because Weas had already been awarded the contract and had begun work before Prism's last appeals were denied on June 6, 2005. Thus, the company should be awarded damages to compensate it for its losses.

See the state's reply brief in support of dismissal:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/StateDismissReply.pdf

See the surreply filing from Prism:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/PrismDismissSurreply.pdf

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hurtgen Co-Defendant to Plead Guilty

The attorney for a man charged along with former top Thompson aide Nick Hurtgen in an alleged kickback scheme in Illinois will plead guilty, according to The Associated Press.

Stuart Levine, a former member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, is facing 19 counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of misapplication of funds, two counts of money laundering and one count of extortion for the scheme involving hospitals in the Illinois counties of Will and McHenry. His defense attorney Jeffrey Steinback said he will enter the guilty plea at a Nov. 1 hearing.

Hurtgen, formerly senior managing director in the Chicago office of Bear Stearns & Co., is facing three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of extortion. A new status hearing for Hurtgen is set for Oct. 11 at 10:30 a.m.

Hurtgen's Madison-based attorney, Stephen Hurley, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Another man accused in the scheme, architect Jacob Kiferbaum, has cooperated with investigators since before the May 2005 indictment.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Arbitrator to Settle Question of Caucus Trial Restitution

Prosecutors' request for more than $500,000 in restitution is unfair and punitive, the attorney for former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen said today after winning a motion from a Dane County judge to allow an arbitrator to decide how much his client and two others must repay in the caucus scandal.

But Dane County DA Brian Blanchard said he could submit a request to the arbitrator for even more from former Speaker Scott Jensen, former Rep. Steve Foti and former GOP aide Sherry Schultz.

Dane County Judge Steven Ebert postponed a restitution order this morning, opting to adopt Jensen defense attorney Stephen Meyer's suggestion that the matter go to an arbitrator. The case was assigned to retired Dane County Judge Gerald Nichol. Ebert ordered that a report be sent back to him within 60 days.

Ebert granted the motion after defense attorneys argued that they had inadequate time to prepare due to a late filing of the restitution order by prosecutors. See a WisPolitics webcast of today's hearing.

Blanchard said he had never participated in a hearing that resulted in an arbitrator being called in regarding restitution.

"The statute provides for this and this is a direction Judge Ebert wanted to take, and that's fine," Blanchard said.

Meyer said Blanchard's "blanket request" for the defendants to pay back the full salary and benefits of the workers runs counter to the testimony at the trial.

"Those of you who were at the trial and attended heard numerous witness after witness say they gave more than 2,000 hours to the state of Wisconsin (each year). That's a serious issue that has to be hashed out, and the best way to do it is in front of an arbitrator," Meyer said.

Asked if the half-million dollar request by the prosecution was unfair, Meyer said, "It clearly has a punitive aspect to it. If you're asking me, I think the whole prosecution was an unfair assault upon my client, and this just adds to it."

Jensen was found guilty by a jury in March on three felony counts of misconduct in office and a misdemeanor ethics violation. Schultz, who stood trial alongside Jensen, was convicted of felony count of misconduct in office. Foti plead guilty in January to a misdemeanor count of misconduct in office. He was sentenced to and served 60 days in a Huber facility.

Jensen and Schultz are appealing their guilty verdicts.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Jensen Attorney Wants Restitution Dismissed

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard's filing yesterday seeking more than a half million in restitution from the three defendants in the caucus scandal convictions was in response to a request last Friday from Scott Jensen's attorney that the restitution requirement be eliminated in the case.

Stephen Meyer, the attorney for the former Republican Assembly Speaker, cites a letter from Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller to Blanchard saying since prior to 2001 legislative staff were not required to keep detailed time sheets, or a system of tracking the cost of state equipment or resources. Because of this, Fuller said he does not have records that could determine a damage amount. (You can see the correspondence between Blanchard and Fuller by clicking on the above "request" link and scrolling down.)

Meyer said that statutes place "the burden of demonstrating by preponderance of the evidence the amount of loss sustained by a victim as a result of the crime is on the victim (the Wisconsin Assembly). They have indicated they are unable to meet this burden."

Blanchard is also seeking more than $160,000 in attorneys fees paid for the trio by the Assembly Chief Clerk; $67,147 for Jensen, $27,981 for Foti, and $68,629 for Schultz.

At the time of the sentencing, Meyer states, Dane County Judge Steven Ebert ordered Blanchard to submit a restitution order within 45 days. It was to be served upon defense counsel within 90 days of the sentencing on May 16. Meyer had not received a proposed order as of the filing of the memo last Friday, and therefore Blanchard violated the order of the court.

"The accused can only conclude that the only explanation for the failue of the District Attorney to provide a proposed restitution order and itemization in support of that order is due to the fact that it recognizes that the victim in this case is unable to meet its burden of proof," said Meyer.

Meyer said Ebert should cancel the restitution hearing, scheduled for next Friday, and eliminate restitution as a requirement in the case. Failing that, Ebert should direct Blanchard to provide an order with supporting itemization and reschedule the hearing for a later time to give defense counsel to prepare, Meyer said.

Schultz's attorney, Stephen Morgan, joined Meyer in the motion.

An aide in Ebert's office said he has not ruled on Meyer's request, and won't do so until next week.

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