Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne (left) and Sheriff Dave Mahoney (right) discuss the Capitol access controversy.
At a press conference today at noon, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Sheriff Dave Mahoney gave dramatic testimony to the widening divide between some members of the law enforcement community and Gov. Scott Walker.
"My deputies will not be palace guards," Mahoney says he told state officials who asked for his help in denying protesters access to the state Capitol, in possible violation of a court order issued this morning. (The state, which intends to take up the issue in court this afternoon, may maintain that the building is open, just not to everyone.)
Ozanne said he had received calls from Walker's supporters urging him to bring criminal charges against the 14 Senate Democrats who have fled the state rather than allow Walker's "budget repair bill" to pass. Ozanne says he will not do so, as there was no violation of law: "Because this frustrates the majority [Republican] does not make it a crime."
Ozanne also said that, while he was troubled by the governor's remarks to a prank phone caller that "we thought about" planting troublemakers in the peaceful protests to create disturbances, this too did not in his view rise to the level of a crime. But he did wonder if the Justice Department's ethics unit needed to look into this.
But Ozanne did question the legality of the Capitol being closed even though the state Supreme Court is in session. He cited state statute 757.14, which holds: "The sittings of every court shall be public and every citizen may freely attend the same," except in particular circumstances that do not seem present here.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz have both asked Walker's office for more information about Walker's "we though about it" remark, which suggests a willingness on his part to subject protesters and law enforcement officers to harm. Mayor Cieslewicz, who attended the press conference, told Isthmus afterward that the office has not responded to either inquiry.
Cieslewicz made it clear that he intends to keep asking: "I think we need to continue to demand answers from the governor as to what was proposed, who proposed it, and how seriously it was considered. We just have to keep asking those questions."