Ald. Jose Perez
Press Release

Again, the justice system fails Milwaukee

Joint Statement from Alderman José G. Pérez and Alderman Bob Donovan September 4, 2014

By - Sep 4th, 2014 04:31 pm

The story in yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailing how Joel Rivera has escaped a homicide charge for the second time is troubling and deserves further public scrutiny.

The article details how in 2008, Rivera was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Nicholas Knutowski, a customer, during a 2007 armed robbery at Marty’s Party, 3735 W. National Ave. In that case, prosecutors dismissed the case when a co-defendant changed his mind and decided not to testify against Rivera.

Fast forward to this past week in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, as Rivera was on trial for felony murder for his role in the August 15, 2013, armed robbery of Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall, 1920 S. 37th St. A co-defendant testified that he, Rivera and another man entered the beer hall with masks and guns. The case was highly publicized because owner Andy Kochanski acted lawfully in self-defense when he shot and killed one of the robbers, Carmelo Matos-Arzola.

In the Kochanski robbery case — despite presenting no witnesses or evidence in his defense — Rivera was found not guilty by a jury of felony murder, a charge imposed when someone dies during commission of an underlying felony, such as armed robbery.

To add insult to injury, in exchange for his testimony, Rivera’s co-defendant was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree reckless homicide, instead of felony murder, and is supposed to receive just four years in prison at his sentencing.

We believe this is just one sad but glaring example of how our justice system is repeatedly failing the law-abiding citizens of Milwaukee. The co-defendant’s plea deal smells bad, yes, but we believe the allegations are true and to us it is simply unconscionable that prosecutors are again unable to put Rivera in prison where he belongs.

Our system relies on a “team” of the community, citizens, law enforcement and the courts working together to truly achieve justice for the victims of crime.

But in our view, sadly, the courts are simply not stepping up when the team needs their help the most.

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3 thoughts on “Again, the justice system fails Milwaukee”

  1. Matt says:

    I’m sure you would like to describe all the testimony you witnessed. Perhaps you would like to point out some error the judge made. Perhaps you want to blame the jury, which as you know constituted 12 people who actually were in court for the trial and, you know, listened. Every single person on that jury voted not guilty. Being omniscient of course, your absence should not diminish the importance of your attack on the judicial system. Buy a book, get a conscience and see your priest. This disgusting attempt to capitalize on murder is beneath even politicians.

  2. Andy says:

    Matt, there’s always the chance that there are some mitigating details we don’t know about… but usually when there are known facts that are not disputed by the defendant, of which one would presume would be a clear conviction, you would tend to assume it is an easy case. For example, if you hear about a drunken wrongway driver on the freeway, that person does not deny being drunk nor driving the wrong way on the freeway, yet somehow is found not guilty… you have to wonder how that happened.

  3. Alba says:

    I don’t understand why he is not in jail when everything points to him being guilty. My brother is Christian Colon and he was on the first case where he got sentenced for something that he did not even do. I am no old enough to fight for my brother and to say what is on my mind. We all know who did it and he should be put away for good. We know that Christian was there when it happened, but he did not kill that man. He made a mistake, but he shouldn’t be paying for other people’s mistakes. He has already paid enough time for his mistakes, I don’t think is right for him to be paying more time for someone else’s. This is not justice, this is corruption from the court. Everything known about this guy (Rivera) should of been enough to take him and keep him in jail for good.

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