Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Judge puts McGee trial on hold

A Milwaukee County judge put Michael McGee's trial on hold Tuesday morning, ordering prosecutors to translate tapes of conversations that included Arabic between a federal undercover agent and an informant to determine whether entrapment was involved in the investigation against the former alderman.

Defense attorneys argued testimony from the informant Jack Adel, who goes by several aliases, is key to the entire prosecution and the tapes suggest he conspired with the federal agent to entrap McGee. Adel ran unsuccessfully against McGee this year.

McGee's attorney, Larry Jarrett, says he believes he has evidence that shows "Adel was conspiring to harm McGee at the behest of the federal government."

Assistant DA Bruce Landgraf admitted information in the translation presents a "powerful question" the defense could raise regarding entrapment.

Following the hearing, prosecutors said they didn't translate the Arabic portions of the tape because they did not believe it was relevant. The sections of the conversations in English had been transcribed for the trial, but translations of snippets of the Arabic portions were recently provided by federal prosecutors.

Judge Dennis Moroney, clearly annoyed over the late disclosure said he was "not happy" that only "snippets" were translated.

"Many times snippets aren't fair," Moroney said.

In all, there are tapes of conversations over a 16-month period that may need to be translated before the trial can proceed. Snippets of the conversations were provided to state prosecutors by the federal government, which has its own case against McGee pending.

Moroney ordered a July hearing for an update on the translations.

With this delay, the federal case, scheduled to begin June 16, could be completed before McGee faces the state charges.

Additionally, because Moroney is scheduled to rotate into civil court in August, another state judge will try the case.

Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm said he was disappointed in the delay, but that he intends to proceed once the issue is resolved. He also said he expected prosecutors will be able to put up a solid rebuttal to any claims entrapment from the defense.

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