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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