A federal appeals court in Chicago overturned Georgia Thompson's jury convictions in connection with the Adelman Travel case after one judge ridiculed the prosecution's theory as "beyond thin."
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judges questioned the Department of Justice's Greg Haanstad why Thompson was even prosecuted. One judge also questioned the federal government's contention there were close political ties between Doyle and Adelman. Prosecutors pointed out company executives gave to Doyle's campaign and the governor spoke at an anniversary celebration the business held.
"Now, I have to say, at least in comparison to some of the cases this court has seen, that's a pretty thin set of facts to show some type of political relationship between Governor Doyle and the people who own Adelman travel," one judge said, later adding the evidence and case against Thompson were "beyond thin."
The judges said that it appeared to them that the Adelman bid was a statistical tie with others and that the U.S. attorney's office made no distinction between political favoritism and in-state favoritism.
"So the people you think were responsible for all this horsing around are Adelman and the governor, but she carries the sack," one judge said.
Haanstad said that if the case is taken as a whole, Thompson was responsible for misappropriation of state funds and the law required that she insulate the bidding process from political ties. The panel mostly asked Hurley for confirmation that Thompson did not know of any Adelman donations to Doyle and that the Adelman bid was the least expensive of those submitted.
*See the ruling:http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/200XWA5O.pdf
*See the order to release Thompson:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/large/070404_Thompson_release_order.pdf
*Listen to a three-minute highlight of judges posing questions to the Haanstad:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070405GThompsonAppeal.mp3
*Listen to the entire hearing:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070405_Thompson_Dismissal.mp3
Michelle Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Milwaukee, said no decision has been made on an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We convinced the jury and we convinced (U.S. District Court) Judge (Rudolph) Randa that she was guilty, but obviously we didn't convince the appeals court," Jacobs said. "Her lawyers did a very good job, and we commend them and respect the decision of the court of appeals."
Thompson attorney Stephen Hurley said he did not expect prosecutors to appeal, saying "you don't get a message much more clear than this." Hurley attended an oral argument in Chicago this morning and received news of the verdict before he completed the drive back to Madison. He said similar decisions usually take at least four months.
"I think it sounded like they didn't buy the government's theory and they didn't buy the notion that there was any evidence to support that theory," said Hurley.
*See the statement from the U.S. attorney's office:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070405USDOJThompson.pdf
*See Hurley's statement:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070405_Hurley_Statement.pdf
Thompson began serving an 18-month sentence Nov. 27 at a federal prison near Peoria, Ill. Randa signed an order today requiring Thompson to be released on her own recognizance. The order states she can live in the Western District of Wisconsin "pending ultimate resolution of the mandate issued by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals." The appeals court wrote in its order that a ruling would be issued in "due course" and required that Thompson be released by the close of business today.
Hurley said there would not be a civil case filed against the federal government over the prosecution.
"There is no recourse against the United States government when they are wrong. Nor apparently is there an apology," he said.
Gov. Doyle said Thompson could have her old job with the Department of Administration if she wants it and would be eligible for back pay for the time she has missed. In addition, she could be eligible for reimbursement by the state for her legal fees.
*See Doyle's statement following Thompson's conviction:http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=64335
*View the original indictment:http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/060124travelindictment.pdf