It's been speculated, in Isthmus and elsewhere, that former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen's legal strategy in defending against misconduct-in-office charges hasn't been to prove his innocence but to exhaust or outlast the prosecution. Might he yet succeed?
Jensen was charged in October 2002 with three felonies and one misdemeanor for allegedly using state staff on political campaigns. Armed with public and campaign funds, he put off his trial until February 2006. He was found guilty but had enough money left to win a new trial, which he seems equally determined to delay.
Last week, seven years into the process, Jensen was back before the state Supreme Court, arguing that his next trial should be held in his home county of Waukesha, not Dane. Arguing against this transparent stall tactic was Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, Jensen's prosecutor from the start.
By the time the Supremes render their ruling and a new trial is set, Blanchard may be gone. He's put his hat in the ring for an open appellate court judgeship and, if he doesn't get that, plans to run for another opening on the same court next spring.
What will happen if Blanchard as D.A. is over before State v. Jensen?
Not to worry, says Blanchard: "Experienced attorneys in this office are very familiar with retrying cases that need to be retried for one reason or another. The three-week trial from 2006 is memorialized in transcripts. Witnesses are on record, under oath, with little room to claim no memory or different facts. Any one of a number of outstanding trial attorneys in this office could work from those transcripts to seek just verdicts in a second trial."
But couldn't a new D.A. decide not to pursue the matter, or to agree to a settlement Blanchard would have rejected as too lenient? (Who knows, maybe Jensen can hold out long enough to get this job.)
"Yes," concedes Blanchard, "if I were to leave this office, all decision making after that would be up to the new D.A."
And what if Blanchard's successor secures another conviction and Jensen's inevitable appeal comes before Judge Blanchard's appeals court? Blanchard: "I would of course recuse myself from any litigation involving Mr. Jensen to avoid the appearance of any lack of impartiality."