Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hurtgen indicted a second time

The U.S. attorney in Chicago today announced former Tommy Thompson aide and bond broker Nick Hurtgen has been indicted for a second time in an alleged kickback scheme involving Illinois hospitals.

A federal judge earlier this year dismissed similar charges, ruling prosecutors didn't present any evidence that he knew about the alleged illegal activity.

The indictment returned today by a federal grand jury reinstates the same charges, and prosecutors said it adds detail about Hurtgen's alleged role in the scheme. The charges include six counts of aiding and abetting mail and wire fraud and one court of extortion.

Prosecutors have alleged that Hurtgen was involved in the scheme with Stuart Levine, who was a member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board that is required to sign off on any hospital project in that state before it could be built. They alleged Hurtgen told hospital authorities which construction firm to select if they wanted approval for a project, directing business to Jacob Kiferbaum.

Levine and Kiferbaum have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 yeas in prison and a fine.

Hurtgen attorney Stephen Hurley said he's surprised by the charges and plans to ask a federal judge to again dismiss the counts.

"The evidence hasn't changed. All that's changed is their characterization of it," Hurley said.

Hurley said he hasn't had any talks with prosecutors about a plea deal since the federal judge first dismissed the charges in March.

"We got it dismissed before, and I think we have an extraordinarily good chance that that's precisely what's going to happen again," he said.

*Read the DOJ statement:

*Read the indictment:


Supreme Court hears arguments in George law license hearing

Former state Sen. Gary George's law license should be suspended but not revoked for his conviction on federal charges because his offenses didn't rise to a level that deserves such a severe penalty, his attorney Richard Cayo said today.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments today concerning the Office of Lawyer Regulation's recommendation that George's law license be revoked. The referee for OLR made the recommendation following George's federal conviction in a kickback scandal.

If his law license is revoked, George couldn't apply for re-instatement for at least five years.

Cayo and George's other attorney, Mark Hazelbaker, also focused on his long public service and compared his case to former lawmakers Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke - both of whom had their licenses suspended for two years following their felony convictions in the so-called "caucus scandal."

State Bar President Tom Basting, who was retained by OLR, focused on George's plea, in which he admitted to taking money from a lawyer but not providing any legal work.

"That when a public official ... falls from the top, the consequences of the injury to that person are almost always much more severe than when someone slips from a lower level," Basting said.

Cayo said George hasn't begun to pay restitution totaling more than $500,000 to the state of Wisconsin as he awaits the outcome of Scott Jensen's case.

He said the two men faced similar allegations about using state employees for political work, and the results of Jensen's case could be used in a motion seeking to lower George's restitution.

In a brief interview following the hearing, George said he doesn't know when the court will hand down its ruling and wouldn't speculate how long he believes the suspension should last.

"I'm appreciative of the chance to have my case heard before the court," George said.

Justices Louis Butler and David Prosser didn't participate in the hearing.

Listen to the oral arguments:


Judge: Wiretap evidence OK'd for McGee state case

A Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge has ruled that federal wiretap evidence can be used in prosecuting the state case against Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee Jr.

McGee's lawyer, Glenn Givens, argued today that an affidavit prosecutors used to persuade a federal judge to issue an order permitting a wiretap contained information the FBI agent who submitted it knew, or should have known, was false.

Givens raised questions about the agent not knowing the real name of a key informant and incorrect information listed about officers in a community organization that prosecutors allege McGee threatened to "trash" its headquarters.

But Milwaukee County D.A. John Chisholm said that even if there was false information in the affidavit, it wasn't intentionally placed there by the agent and that the undisputed information in the affidavit was enough to establish probable cause. Chisholm also said that the agent getting names wrong is immaterial.

Judge Dennis P. Moroney said that while Givens may have some valid points, they are ones that should be dealt with at trial in order to question the credibility of the information, not the admissibility of the information itself.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Feds turn over McGee documents to state court

The federal government has handed over documents regarding Ald. Michael McGee Jr.'s state case to a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge during a closed hearing.

Judge Dennis P. Moroney chastised Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm at a hearing Monday for failing to produce the documents he had requested a month ago. The documents were withheld because the feds considered them administrative records. Chisholm attended the hearing, along with U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic and McGee attorney Glenn Givens.

Moroney is set to review the documents and determine whether they are relevant to the state case. If he decides they are, attorneys will be able to see them and hash out whether they will become part of the public record.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

State Claims Board backs legal fees for Thompson

The Wisconsin Claims Board says the state should cover more than $228,000 in legal fees for Georgia Thompson because her prosecution for bid ridding came about by virtue of her state employment.

"The legal fees, fines and assessments incurred in this matter are an obligation of the employer (State of Wisconsin) rather than its employee (Ms. Thompson)," the board wrote in its decision recommending $228,792.62 go to her attorneys.

Thompson was convicted in 2006 by a federal jury for steering a contract to a contributor of Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign. But that conviction was overturned at a federal court of appeals, with a judge calling the evidence "beyond thin."

Thompson's attorney Stephen Hurley applauded the decision.

"I'm very grateful that the board considered this and considered it so thoughtfully," Hurley said, calling it a "good resolution."

Thompson has been reinstated to her state job and already has received more than $67,000 in back pay for lost wages from the time she was forced to quit following her conviction until she was reinstated following the appeals court decision.

See the recommendation:


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Van Hollen declines to appeal Jensen decision; Blanchard will retry the former speaker

The 4th District Court of Appeals will issue paperwork by Dec. 10 to send the case of former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen back to Dane County District Court, after the Department of Justice announced it wouldn't ask the Supreme Court to overturn the Appeals Court's decision to overturn the verdicts.

Dane Co. DA Brian Blanchard, who prosecuted Jensen and won convictions on three felony counts and one misdemeanor, said he'll retry the Brookfield Republican.

After the court of appeals paperwork, Dane County Judge Steven Ebert, who heard the initial case, will set a status conference.

Jensen's attorney Stephen Meyer said at that time he may offer pre-trial motions, but said it was premature to discuss what those motions might be.

Meyer could ask for a change of venue or judge in the case.

See the DOJ statement on the decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court:


Greg Bump
JR Ross

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