Judge throws out threat conviction
Dee J. Hall
July 25, 2007
A judge Wednesday threw out an Oshkosh man 's 1995 conviction for threatening to kill disgraced former Winnebago County District Attorney Joseph Paulus after authorities agreed that a prosecutor withheld important evidence and solicited false testimony from a key witness.
The prosecution of the case by former Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic "is an example of really egregious conduct " by a prosecutor, said an attorney for the man, Mark Price.
The current special prosecutor in the case, Milwaukee attorney Susan Karaskiewicz, argued along with Price 's attorney, Byron Lichstein, to vacate the conviction at a hearing Wednesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court.
Calumet County Circuit Judge Donald Poppy agreed to throw out the conviction after hearing from the defense and prosecution that Biskupic withheld secretly recorded jailhouse conversations showing Price knew nothing about and never mentioned a plot to kill Paulus. Paulus is now serving a federal prison sentence for taking bribes to fix cases while he was district attorney between 1998 and 2000.
Attorneys for both sides also argued that Biskupic, the Republican candidate for Wisconsin attorney general in 2002, elicited false testimony from prison inmate Darin Beverly -- the main witness against Price -- during a secret "John Doe " hearing.
Under questioning from Biskupic, Beverly testified that he never sought a deal in exchange for his testimony. But documents dug up by Winnebago County Assistant District Attorney Mike Balskus in recent years showed Biskupic and Beverly, a convicted rapist and armed robber, struck a deal in exchange for the inmate 's testimony.
Records show Biskupic secured a five-year sentence reduction for Beverly after falsely telling Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Fern Siegel in a letter, "Mr. Beverly did not ask for assistance in seeking a sentence modification before his cooperation with law enforcement in the Winnebago County case"
Biskupic, who served eight years as district attorney of Outagamie County, now is in private practice in Appleton. A phone message and e-mail left at his office Wednesday weren 't returned. He is the brother of Steven Biskupic, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Lichstein said Poppy 's decision Wednesday "is a vindication for what Mark 's been saying -- that these charges were trumped up from the beginning and that the prosecution engaged in unlawful tactics to do it. "
Said Karaskiewicz: "What carries the day in this case is an interest of justice argument because it appears probable in this case that justice was miscarried."
The 48-year-old Price remains in Green Bay Correctional Institution serving a life sentence for murder, a crime for which he also claims innocence. During a 2005 interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Price said he witnessed, but didn 't participate in, the 1990 killing for which he is now in prison.
"I didn 't kill Mike Fitzgibbon. I wasn 't trying to kill Paulus, " Price said. "I can prove with documentation that (prosecutors) lied."
Wednesday 's decision isn 't the first time Biskupic 's ethics as a prosecutor have been called into question.
In 2003, Biskupic was rebuked by the state Ethics Board for running a secret cash-for-leniency program while in Outagamie County. Defendants who agreed to pay up to $8,000 to a fund controlled by Biskupic or to local anti-crime groups avoided criminal charges including grand theft, perjury and patronizing a prostitute. The deals were outlined in a 2003 State Journal series. (See Buying Their Way Out of Trouble)
||Truth in Justice