Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jury finds McGee guilty on all nine counts

By David A. Wise

MILWAUKEE -- A federal jury in Milwaukee has found former Ald. Michael McGee Jr. guilty on nine federal charges, including five counts of bribery, three counts of extortion and one count of attempting to avoid reporting requirements for a $15,000 wire transfer. The verdict was announced shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night, after roughly six hours of deliberation.

McGee, who looked straight ahead as the verdict was read, faces up to 30 years in prison. He will remain in custody until his sentencing, which is set for Oct. 24.

U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic said afterwards that he was pleased with the verdict and said it was the result of excellent law enforcement work.

McGee's younger brother, Jonathan McGee, expressed disappointment in the verdict but said it was not unexpected. He also said he believes Michael McGee was targeted because of his family's controversial nature.

"He's a McGee," Jonathan McGee said. "Y'all haven't forgotten [Michael McGee] Senior," he said, addressing a group of reporters.

In closing arguments earlier today, federal prosecutor Joseph Wall laid out each of the nine counts facing McGee. Wall said the informant in the case, Jack Adel, came forward because he was "tired of being used and exploited" by McGee, who Wall said had "almost complete power" over whether Adel could continue to keep his liquor license for his grocery store.

Wall recounted witness testimony about McGee demanding money from numerous business owners for support on license and zoning decisions and pointed to various recordings of McGee himself asking for money.

He recounted a tape in which McGee said "I'm the gatekeeper" on licensing decisions and suggested McGee's power was such that when it came to decisions for the district, "it starts and stops with Mike McGee."

Meanwhile McGee's attorney, Calvin Malone, painted McGee as the target of plot by Adel to remove him from office because he opposed Adel's sale of his store to a man who did not live in the district.

Malone tried to raise doubts about tapes the prosecution did not play and cases in which taped evidence or paperwork did not exist, suggesting there was evidence there that Adel plotted to remove McGee.

He attempted to portray Adel as deceitful for secretly recording conversations he had with others while serving as an informant. He also pointed to Adel taking money from others in his own unsuccessful bid for McGee's Common Council seat even though he said he did not intend to win the seat as further evidence of Adel's deceitful nature.

Given that, Malone said that any evidence linked to Adel is insufficient to convict McGee.

"The deception and manipulation and ambition is in the evidence," Malone said.

To those who believe such a deceptive plot cannot exist, Malone pointed to the case of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in which African-American males were told they were receiving treatment for the disease, although none had been given.

In his rebuttal, Wall reiterated that Adel was motivated out of being tired of being forced to pay McGee money and provide him free food and cell phone minutes. He noted that during his defense Malone did not choose to play the tapes that he suggested showed McGee was the victim of a conspiracy.

Wall said he did not play complete tapes because they would be gibberish and irrelevant

As for Adel's credibility, Wall said he did not just put Adel on the stand alone, but called up 25 witnesses, 65 wiretapped phone calls, 16 body wire recordings and numerous documents.

To close his rebuttal, Wall played a six-minute slide show of McGee's alleged victims with audio of McGee allegedly demanding money and planning and discussing extortion activities with others.

The tape ended with McGee telling an associate that he could be called Michael, Mike, or "thug Mike."

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