Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Prosecutors withdraw subpoena in D'Angelo case

Prosecutors in the federal case against former Overture Center President Robert D'Angelo have withdrawn a subpoena of Amazon.com customers after a judge ruled against the measure earlier this year.

The June ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker, unsealed last week, denied a request for the identities of thousands of Amazon customers. Prosecutors were seeking out possible witnesses for the case against D'Angelo, who was indicted in October on fraud charges after using his Madison office to sell used books on Amazon.com without reporting the income.

He had served as the president of Madison's Overture Center for the Arts, one of the highest-paid positions in the city, until his retirement in September 2005 amid sexual harassment allegations.

See more here.

Labels:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Panel member expresses sympathy for Ziegler

A member of the Judicial Review Panel handling the discipline case against Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler expressed sympathy for her during a hearing Monday in West Bend.

Judge Ralph Adam Fine said repeating the same mistake multiple times doesn't translate to multiple mistakes until after the wrong doing is pointed out.

The panel didn't issue its recommendation on what discipline - if any - Ziegler should face for dealing with 11 cases while a Washington County judge involving a West Bend bank for which her husband served on the board of directors.

Ziegler's attorney James Troupis pointed out that immediately after Ziegler was aware of the conflict of interest, she apologized and refused to accept any cases dealing with West Bend Savings Bank.

James Alexander, executive director of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, called Ziegler's conflict of interest an "extremely serious matter" that clearly violated the code of judicial conduct.

"There is no excuse for her not following it," he said.

See the full story here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jensen defense totals more than $362,000

Former legislator Scott Jensen had spent at least $362,000 through June to fight misconduct in office charges, much of that coming from his old campaign account, according to IRS documents reviewed by WisPolitics.

The former GOP Assembly speaker, who resigned his seat upon his conviction on three felony counts for using state resources to bolster campaigns, has raised a total of $363,975 for the account as of the last report on June 30 of this year. A majority of that figure, more than $287,135, was paid from funds transferred from his campaign fund, Taxpayers for Jensen, to his legal defense fund.

Jensen and co-defendant Sherry Schultz, a former GOP legislative aide, were granted new trials in a Nov. 8 ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeals. The court ruled the instructions required the jury to accept that Jensen obtained a dishonest advantage if jurors found he had used state resources for political purposes. Instead, the jurors should have been told they may - but need not - find that Jensen obtained a dishonest advantage, the appeals court ruled.

The appeals court also ruled Jensen, of Brookfield, was improperly barred from testifying about his knowledge of activities by other Dem and GOP lawmakers because the question of whether he intended to gain a dishonest advantage by using state employees for political campaigns was relevant to his defense.

The Department of Justice is expected to decide by the end of this month whether to appeal the appeals courts ruling to the state Supreme Court. If there is no appeal, a new trial would likely be sought by prosecutors.

According to IRS filings for his legal defense fund, Jensen has paid $362,325 to the law office of his attorney Stephen Meyer of Madison. Payments began on December 2002, and the last reported payment was for $10,000 on April 3, 2007. Because his defense fund is a non-profit, Jensen is required to make twice-yearly filings with the IRS.

Though he has had other firms working on his case, including two attorneys from the Milwaukee firm of Friebert, Finnerty and St. John who are helping with his appeal, Jensen's legal defense fund hasn't made payments to any firms other than Meyer's as of the last filing, on June 30 of this year.

Jensen closed his campaign account in October 2006, but prior to that had filtered $283,766 from Taxpayers for Jensen to the legal defense fund. To use the campaign funds, Jensen first had to ask the individual contributors if they objected to his transfer of the money to his legal defense fund.

According to the IRS filings, since Jan. 1, 2006, Jensen has paid $38,250 out of his own pocket. His wife, Julie Jensen, also chipped in $12,000 on June 26, 2006.

Others who have made donations to the Jensen legal defense fund include: former Jensen staffers and legislative employees Steve Knudson, Katie Mnuk, Adam Peer, Steve Baas, Brett Healy, Ellen Nowak, Melanie Hubbard and Brian Dake. Also on the list of contributors is Jim Klauser, a former administration secretary for Gov. Tommy Thompson who worked closely with Jensen over the years.

Baas, Dake and Healy testified at Jensen's trial. Dake testified on March 1, 2006, and his $250 donation to the legal defense fund was recorded on March 29 of that year. Healy testified on March 6, 2006, and his $5,000 donation is registered on April 27 of that year. Baas' testimony was on March 6, 2006, and his $250 donation came on March 29 of this year.

Three GOP legislators also gave cash to Jensen's defense: Sue Jeskewitz, Garey Bies and Eugene Hahn. Former GOP legislator Marc Duff has also contributed.

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard, who prosecuted the case, also asked that Jensen repay about $67,000 in attorney fees that were covered by taxpayers before Jensen was charged. But Ebert put off a ruling on that issue until appeals have been resolved.

See the Jensen IRS filings here

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

DOA backs Thompson's reimbursement claim

The Department of Administration has recommended the state Claims Board approve Georgia Thompson's claim for $359,047.62 in legal fees other expenses related to her aborted criminal case.

"Ms. Thompson has been, and remains, a hard-working, dedicated, and respected employee of the Department of Administration," DOA legal counsel Mark Saunders wrote in a memo to the board dated Nov. 2. "She has suffered many tribulations through the criminal investigation and subsequent trial, conviction, and federal imprisonment, for a crime that she did not commit."

The state Claims Board has a hearing scheduled Thursday on Thompson's claim.

Saunders notes in the memo that there is no state statute allowing reimbursement for legal defense costs for employees acquitted of criminal charges. State statutes only specifically mention legal costs for those state employees sued for acting in their official capacity.

Still, DOA agrees with Thompson's assertion that the statutes and a prior court ruling don't preclude her reimbursement, Saunders wrote. Her legal defense accounts for $220,592.62 of her claim.

See the DOA letter here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Appeals court awards new trial for Jensen

The 4th District Court of Appeals has granted new trials for former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and GOP aide Sherry Schultz, ruling the circuit court erred in its jury instructions.

The court on Nov. 8 ruled the instructions required the jury to accept that Jensen obtained a dishonest advantage if jurors found he had used state resources for political purposes. Instead, the jurors should have been told they may - but need not - find that Jensen obtained a dishonest advantage.

The appeals court also ruled Jensen, R-Brookfield, was improperly barred from testifying about his knowledge of activities by other Dem and GOP lawmakers because the question of whether he intended to gain a dishonest advantage by using state employees for political campaigns was relevant to his defense. But the court rejected Jensen's appeal that he also should have been allowed to present testimony from others about their knowledge of the use by Assembly leaders - Republican and Democratic - of state employees for political purposes.

Jensen said in a statement released through attorney Robert Friebert that he is "very thankful" for the decision. Friebert declined to answer questions about whether the Brookfield Republican would now consider a plea deal to avoid a second trial.

Schultz attorney Steve Morgan questioned whether prosecutors should retry Jensen and Schultz, asking whether the original objective of the investigation was met since the legislative caucuses no longer exist.

Dane County DA Brian Blanchard said early on Nov. 8 that he would study the decision before deciding whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. He said he planned to proceed with a second trial, "if that's what we need to do."

Jensen was convicted in March 2006 of three felony counts for misconduct in office and one misdemeanor for using his public office to benefit the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.

Jensen didn't appeal the misdemeanor count, and the appeals court didn't address that conviction in its ruling.

Blanchard has 30 days to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Should the Supreme Court reject the petition or if Blanchard decides against an appeal, the case would be sent back to Dane County Judge Steven Ebert.

*Read the Jensen ruling:
http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=30828

*Read the Schultz ruling:
http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=30827

*See the Jensen statement:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=110076

Labels:

Greg Bump
JR Ross

Contact bump@wispolitics.com with tips or news items for the blog.

Updates from WisPolitics.com on developments in Wisconsin courts and in the legal community.

See samples of WisPolitics subscriber products

Take a no-obligation two-week free trial.

Contact Jim Greer with questions about subscribing or advertising

Wisconsin Court System Wisconsin State Bar Miscellaneous

Powered by Blogger