Post-Crescent

Posted Aug. 09, 2003

State AG would outlaw DA deals

Lautenschlager to back legislation to end practice


The Post-Crescent

MADISON — State Atty. Gen. Peg Lautenschlager said Friday she will endorse legislation that seeks to end certain cash-for-consideration deals offered by the state’s district attorneys.

“We can no longer allow even the mere perception that justice is for sale, nor can we permit prosecutors to impose sanctions that fall squarely within the prerogative of the court,” Lautenschlager said in a prepared release.

She said that on Monday her office will officially lend its support to a proposal by state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, that would ban deferred prosecution agreements allowing defendants to avoid charges by making cash payments to organizations chosen by prosecutors.

Hansen said July 15 he would draft such a bill in the wake of newspaper reports of deals arranged by former Outagamie County Dist. Atty. Vince Biskupic, who was defeated by Lautenschlager on Nov. 5 in his bid to become attorney general.

Monday in Green Bay, Lautenschlager and Hansen will announce a bill banning payments made in exchange for agreements not to prosecute.


Posted Aug. 09, 2003

Judges avoid opinion on dealmaking bill

By Dan Wilson
Post-Crescent staff writer

MADISON — The state’s chief circuit court judges declined Friday to take a stand on legislation that would limit prosecutors’ ability to make deals with defendants in exchange for donations to organizations.

As an alternative, the committee agreed to reissue its 1997 report on crime prevention organizations to serve as a road map for legislators.

The issue has been put in the spotlight since accusations were raised against former Outagamie County Dist. Atty. Vince Biskupic that he crafted deals with defendants prior to charging their cases. Biskupic has admitted to allowing defendants off in some cases without the filing of charges provided they made a donation to a crime prevention organization.

The cited deals have exposed a loophole in the law that only applies to cases that have been charged.

Dane County Circuit Judge Michael Nowakow-ski noted the committee shouldn’t get caught up in specific wording of legislation that might violate the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches of government.

Sauk County Circuit Judge Jim Evenson, the committee chairman, agreed.

“We have the problem of a charging decision, which is not a judicial function,” he said.

The committee members reviewed a draft of a bill from state Rep. Greg Huber, D-Wausau, a former prosecutor, designed to plug that loophole.

Director of State Courts John Voelker said the proposed bill appears to do that.

“I have not had the opportunity to read through it, but it does make all agreements public,” he said.

There are 10 circuit court districts in the state, each represented by a chief judge. Outagamie County Circuit Judge Joseph Troy, who represents the 8th District, was not at the meeting. Any decision the committee might have made would have been only advisory.

In 1997, the committee studied the issue of deferred prosecution agreements and payments to crime prevention organizations. From that report, legislation was drafted that led to the current law.

The report urged the Legislature to look at the issue of charging decisions to see if legislation was necessary and, at the same time, ask the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association and municipal court prosecutors to develop guidelines.

“When I read this report it may as well have been written last week as six or seven years ago,” said Nowakowski.

“I think the public view of the whole process of the criminal justice system is not getting the fine distinctions when people are able to gain benefits of not being charged with a crime by paying money when other people are not getting that benefit. It casts aspersions on the integrity of the whole system.”

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice