This is a complicated one. Read The appellate court decision.
I will not venture to judge fair or foul. But here are three very excellent points:
1. Certain crimes are really out of season.
Get charged with political corruption and be prepared for a white-hot, gas-blown fire that sucks the oxygen out of reasoned discourse. Enough to convict Georgia Thompson. Supposedly, she steered state contracts to a favored bidder. But the contract was awarded to the low bidder, this career civil servant had no known political connections and she did not profit by the award of contract. Still, a jury of 12 men and women, good and true, convicted before an appellate court set her free.
The crux of the Jensen reversal is that the trial judge told the jury that because a certain fact was established, therefore, the law was violated, without letting Jensen testify about his understanding of whether the Democrats were also using state resources to campaign. A technicality?
I can't express it any better than Bob Laughalott (La Follette?) on a rival website:
I, who frankly find Jensen's politics revolting, still believe he is entitled to the same basic rights as, say, I am. The court of appeals made an unavoidable ruling - the jury instructions relieved the government of the duty to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on a key point; it directed the jury to give the win to the government.
This is the constitutional essence of the trial process. And folks like you call it a technicality. Let's be honest, all this kind of commentary really says is that only people we like are entitled to enjoy basic constitutional rights. This is not nuanced stuff. And, history shows what happens when we agree that certain groups are exempt from the bill of rights.
(Full disclosure: it was Scott Jensen, who as Tommy Thompson's chief of staff, placed a phone call to your faithful blogger and asked him to join the administration to work on welfare reform.)
2. This is not a good time to revisit this issue.
If a new trial occurs, it will dominate headlines sometime in late summer 2008 when the state legislature, U.S. Congress and presidential campaign will be in full rut. Vicki McKenna made this point: it will paint the Republican party as the party of corruption and who will remember Brian Burke and Chuck Chvala, both charged with "pay for play" -- unlike Scott Jensen, who was convicted of using state workers on political campaigns.
3. Chuck Chvala was worse.
Which has gotten lost in the last two years. But it illustrates the hard truth of American jurisprudence: play ball with prosecutors, cop a plea, like Chvala did, and get 9 months in work release, a $5,500 fine and to spend two years on probation for two felony convictions. Chvala had 17 other felony charges, including extortion, dismissed under the terms of the plea deal, which went down in December 2005, nearly two years ago.
Insist on your innocence and you pay the price, like Jensen, and get 15 months in prison and 45 months of community supervision on three counts of felony misconduct in public office and one misdemeanor count. Jensen was originally charged with five felonies to Chuck's 20.
Remember the phrase: "Do we have a relationship?"
Wisconsin State Journal, Dec 22, 2002:
For Chuck Chvala, using his clout as leader of the then- Democratically controlled state Senate to raise campaign cash was only one part of the apparent pay-to-play equation, prosecutors say.
The other part was concealing his role in spending that money.
Chvala, charged with 20 felonies, including extortion, also allegedly steered the money to "independent" political groups prosecutors say he secretly controlled, or to out-of-state organizations, according to the criminal complaint.
For sheer chutzpah, who else could shake down the district attorneys of Wisconsin, en masse, for political contributions and then offer the evidence of said shake-down to a sitting circuit judge as proof that said district attorneys were out to get him? Who but the most self-delusional could produce a letter from Waukesha's district attorney who writes that after meeting with Chuck that he feels so dirty he wants to take a shower? And offer that letter into evidence in his defense. In his defense!
As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal reports, Jensen's "sentence was the stiffest of any lawmaker."
Our Lady of the Swamps
Alright, I've bashed the judiciary enough for one blog. Nine times out of 10 they do a great job. So let's raise a glass to the independence of Dane County's judges, clerk of courts, and district attorney.
While the Dane County Board is going gaga (technical term) over the Berkeley, California consultant's plan to spin the revolving door ever faster so as to empty our jail's inhabitants back into our neighborhoods ASAP, Dane County's judge and D.A. Blanchard are saying, whoa! Not so fast.
Reaction: our Kathleen is doing her own version of "play (ball) or pay" to those who oppose her.
... others are resisting Falk's plan to impose 10 performance requirements, which she calls "benchmarks," on the criminal justice system in an effort to get it to speed the system up. They include Clerk of Courts Carlo Esqueda, Chief Judge William Foust and District Attorney Brian Blanchard, and Falk's not feeling generous toward them.
The three named are, or were, elected as Democrats -- Foust when he was D.A. "Not feeling generous," is a nice way to say Our Kathleen is using the county budget to screw people who don't follow the Falk line. They're all facing the budget axe for not playing politics with personal safety.
If you do not have marshland for sale, Kathleen, Our Lady of the Swamps, isn't buying. And this woman ran for attorney general!
I do give credit to the afternoon Progressive Dane newspaper for running the story. I can't wait for the Kama sutra-like spin from John Nichols/Dave Zweifel/and the crazy lady who writes about the elderly on occasion when she is not bashing Bush. Just make certain your take their pretzel logic with a cold, refreshing brew.
Obama dirty web trick?
The novice candidate cried foul at a web photo of him standing sullenly with hands at side while fellow Dem candidates Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton held hands to heart in front of an American flag on the farm fields of Iowa.
Barack, if this president thing doesn't work out, you have a future on the Madison School Board.
Regional Transit Authority
Mark your calendars for Wednesday, November 14, a day that will LIVE ... in infamy! Destination: The Esquire Club 1025 N. Sherman Ave. Madison. Subject: a fine meal and stimulating conversation. (Especially if I'm there, which I intend.) Topic: Regional Transit Authority Panel Discussion at the North Side Businessman's Club meeting.
Be there or B2.