Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Recall Effort Targets John Chisholm

DA targeted by right wingers outraged by John Doe and liberal blacks angered by suspects killed in custody.

By - Feb 6th, 2014 11:09 am
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm

On Monday night there was a strategic meeting of people who may have only one thing in common: they’re all angry at Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. The meeting, I’m told, included a broad cross section of Milwaukee’s black community who mostly lean left, and many conservatives connected with business groups. Also on hand were some Hispanics and a few Tea Party activists.

The meeting was meant to very hush-hush but word of it has leaked out. Indeed, the right-leaning Wisconsin Reporter, that operates as mouthpiece for conservative groups, seems to have a direct pipeline to the recall organizers.

Calling the conclave an “unusual group of right- and left-wing activists,” the publication reported that two community organizers, Tory Lowe and Monique Taylor, have strategized with Orville Seymer, field director of Citizens for Responsible Government, best known for helping organize the recall effort against former Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament. These strange bedfellows are looking to establish a recall exploratory committee as soon as next week.

One source tells me that conservative activists have been going “through every case handled by Chisholm” looking for derogatory material they can use against him. That could include the fact that Chisholm’s wife is a teacher who allegedly made statements criticizing Act 10, the law that all but eliminated public employee unions in Wisconsin.

Chisholm has enraged Republicans for overseeing a John Doe probe that appears to be looking at alleged, illegal coordination during the 2012 recall election between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign committee and conservative third party groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity – Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Family Action.

These are all groups that tend to operate out of Madison and probably include few residents of Milwaukee County, so their effort to target Chisholm in a recall would look like an egregious case of carpetbagging. But by uniting with city-based activists, they could create a formidable coalition: the well-funded conservative groups could bankroll the recall and the minority activists could operate as the foot soldiers getting recall signatures, and presumably, would also operate as spokespersons for the campaign.

Lowe and Taylor organized a Copwatch group in Milwaukee following the death of Derek Williams in police custody, “reaching out to other families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police and security officers,” as has reported.

Chisholm initially refused to pursue criminal charges against the police in whose custody Williams died. He later relented and appointed Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke as special prosecutor to conduct an inquest. The inquest recommended that Franke pursue criminal charges, but Franke, after criticizing the cops involved, announced there wasn’t sufficient evidence to go to court.

Adding to anger over this case were other problems, including police officers charged with doing anal cavity searches of young black male suspects. But the incident that has triggered the recall discussions was Chisholm’s decision to not press charges against the three white male customers who grabbed and restrained 16-year-old Corey Stingley after he stole some items from VJ’s Food Mart in West Allis on Dec. 14, 2012.

The incident has ignited widespread rage in the black community, with some comparing to the nationally controversial death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was later found not guilty of any charges in the incident.

But Chisholm declared that I can’t make charges based on popular sentiment,” in announcing his decision in the case. “It’s got to be based on the law and what we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. If I apply any other standard, I’m not doing my job. I’m standing by that decision, and accept any criticism that comes along with that.”

He may get far more criticism than he bargained for. Shortly after his announcement, about 100 demonstrators protested the DA’s decision and vowed to organize and vote Chisholm out of office.

The fact that Chisholm made his decision before the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner ruled that Stingley died by “homicide” has added fuel to the fire, says Mike Wilder, co-director of the African American Roundtable. “He jumped the gun. We’re saying he needs to reconsider his opinion.”

Experts note that the medical examiner’s ruling by itself doesn’t mean a prosecutor could prove the three men who restrained Stingley were guilty. Rev. Willie E. Brisco, the president of MICAH, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, says he understands the reasoning behind Chisholm’s decision, and that these men might not be successfully prosecuted, “but it’s hard to tell a community that has suffered so much to accept this. To not even allow that to go to trial gives a sense of incompletion.”

As a result, he says, “there is outrage in the community. There is disappointment. And there is ‘oh, here we go again.’”

Chisholm’s predecessor as DA, E. Michael McCann, often called for inquests, but in 25 years of doing this not one resulted in a recommendation of criminal charges. Chisholm has typically avoided ordering inquests, saying he didn’t want to give families false hope that officers would be charged. The might be the right thing to do, but it’s clear at this point it’s not the politic thing to do. It has clearly pushed minority activists to embrace a recall.

For the conservative groups supporting the recall, this is a continuation of their efforts to pressure Chisholm to end his John Doe Probe of them. They have leaked information to the Wall Street Journal, which has condemned the probe as a “raid” on “free speech.”

On his talk radio show and at his Right Wisconsin website, Charlie Sykes has repeated the mantra that this is a “partisan witch hunt.”

The Wisconsin Reporter has done numerous stories questioning the probe, typically with unnamed sources condemning it. As one complained, it’s a clear case of “one party in this state using prosecutorial powers to conduct a one-sided investigation into conservatives.”

It was dubbed “The Persecution of Wisconsin Conservatives” by Frontpage Mag, whose motto is “Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out.”

Eric O’Keefe, head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, has called the probe “political payback by elected prosecutors against conservative activists for their political successes in Wisconsin.” His group has threatened a federal lawsuit against Chisholm. But a recall against a DA investigating a recall election would be the ultimate slap down.

The idea that Chisholm is simply a partisan hack is belied by the fact that two Republican DAs are also involved in the John Doe probe. As I’ve previously written, there is abundant evidence to suggest the investigation is anything but partisan.

A January 2013 Milwaukee Magazine feature on Chisholm by Erik Gunn portrayed Chisholm as someone without a partisan edge, who “worked with lawmakers in both parties on policy questions but says his priorities – tackling disparities in prosecution, reducing incarceration without compromising safety, strengthening domestic violence laws and prosecution – seemed more aligned with the Democrats,” though he firmly opposes abortion.

Sheriff David Clarke told the magazine that Chisholm was “a straight shooter” whose decisions aren’t driven by partisan motives.

If anything, Chisholm has been far too unpolitical, failing to grasp how his decisions — even if they are the right ones from a legal perspective — can be perceived very negatively. If none of those inquests called for by McCann resulted in criminal charges, they did have one tangible outcome for the DA: no one ever tried to recall him from office.

Short Takes 

-Both Brisco and Wilder told me they were aware of the recall being organized but opposed it.

-Will the recall get funding from the Wisconsin Realtors Association? One source speculates that they might. The group has no dog in this fight, but they are very closely allied with Walker, who would love to see the John Doe probe ended.

-Conservatives have been pushing to change the state constitution to end recalls, allowing them only if an elected official is charged with a criminal or civil ethics charge. That, of course, would bar a recall of Chisholm. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans oppose such an effort.

Correction: An earlier version of this story described the Wisconsin Reporter as “Bradley Foundation-funded.” It is actually funded by the conservative Franklin Center for Government and Media Integrity, which in past years has gotten money from Bradley (including $190,500 in one year alone).

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

29 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Recall Effort Targets John Chisholm”

  1. smh says:

    Another sad cry for help from the professional victims known as the GOP and its supporters. Seriously, the modern conservative in Wisconsin is really nothing more than the embodiment of a spoiled teenager who doesn’t like it when they get caught up to no good, so they go and get revenge on those who caught them. It’s never their fault. They’re always the victims. It’s always someone else causing problems. What happened to the part of Lincoln? There’s no dignity left. Just a group of spoiled brats who want to do whatever they want without repercussions.

  2. Sean says:

    “Seriously, the modern conservative in Wisconsin is really nothing more than the embodiment of a spoiled teenager who doesn’t like it when they get caught up to no good, so they go and get revenge on those who caught them.”

    Really? that false victimization is only reserved for the GOP?!?!? I find it hilarious when one political aspirtion is thrown at a particular party or group, but the people casting those aspirtions never look in the mirror – keep the quality dialogue going……

  3. smh says:

    See? You immediately proved my point.

  4. Kyle says:

    smh – So what is your take on Milwaukee’s black community? Are they also spoiled brats for pursuing a recall? Or is that a noble effort, and the only thing differentiating the two groups is the nobility behind their motivation?

  5. smh says:

    Well, first off it’s not the black community, just some people within the black community. Those who are pro recalling Chisholm have much different motivations than the professional victims out in the burbs. I can’t speak about why they want it, but I’m sure it’s not because of the Doe. I will say it’s not them leading this though. They’re just using the right winger professional victims as their vehicle to get their mission across. Either way, it’s just a smear campaign to try and protect Walker and all the felons he apparently surrounds himself with.

  6. Kyle says:

    Obviously, not every member of Milwaukee’s black community is involved in this. Murphy does give the impression that it’s widespread when he wrote: “The meeting, I’m told, included a broad cross section of Milwaukee’s black community who mostly lean left”. And if you’d read the story, you could probably guess that their motivation is based on the lack of charges in certain high profile deaths.

    Still, you avoided the question. Are these members of the black community “spoiled brats” to be pursuing a recall, or is it only the conservatives that are spoiled because their reason for considering a recall is different than the reason used by the (broad cross section of Milwaukee’s) black community?

  7. smh says:

    I thought I made it clear in the response, but no, they’re not spoiled brats. The broad cross section of the black community who would want Chisholm charged clearly are suited at such a push because they feel a social injustice was done with charges not being brought in several high profiled deaths. Oppression is nothing new in the black community. And I’m talking real oppression, not the BS people like Orv Seymer claim to undergo because the guy they support for governor may or may not have taken part in a vast criminal enterprise both in the county and state leadership roles. Those in the black community have most likely been pushing recall for a few years with some of the non charges that have come about. However, because they’re not part of the spoiled suburban set that has means they’re largely ignored in their efforts. See? They’re using the right wing professional victims to voice their concerns for those who are actual victims.

  8. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I take a different look at them. Where were they, McCann and Chisholm, when the priests were assaulting the kids? When the elections were crooked? There is not any doubt that the unions and Left have coordinated for years, I have watched. Look at Pasch and the group backing her.
    Far worse than elections is the fact that we re the top ten for most violent ciities cause we do not put thugs in jail, white, black, pink. They are walking the streets.
    Instead they are using valuable time to pursue a partisan goal, “get rid of Walker”. Wasting time and money on that instead of going after thugs.
    Look today, big deal on some gd violin and how many thugs that have killed or shot people are walking around?

  9. Kyle says:

    So even though they have a common goal, one side is fighting injustice and the other people on the same side are whining spoiled brats. Got it. No credit is given for doing the “right” thing for the “wrong” reasons. And the other side is “clearly suited at such a push because they feel a social injustice was done”? You didn’t even know their motivations two comments ago! (“I can’t speak about why they want it…”) How could they clearly be anything?

    Also, the “governor may or may not have taken part in a vast criminal enterprise”? Seriously, wait for the evidence before you wet yourself with excitement over possible charges that have been years in the making. Anybody may or may not have done any number of things, but statements like that border on libel.

  10. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    If there was some collusion, the chances that Scott knew about it are nil.

  11. smh says:

    Digest, Of course you believe that every single member of Scott Walker’s staff at the county was in collusion, yet he knew nothing about it. Of course you believe Walker knows nothing about the activities of campaign staff. The spoiled brats of the right never have accountability or responsibility. Leaders never take responsibility for the actions of their staff and have no idea their staff are doing illegal things and even installing equipment in their office to do their own illegal activities. Given that, I must quote Robert Deniro in “Casino” when the slots got scammed:

    “Either he was in on it, which means he’s a criminal so I had to fire him, or he was too stupid to see he was being set up in which case I had to fire him.” Walker can either be responsible or too irresponsible of a leader to not know the actions of his staff. There is no middle ground.

    In terms of crime in the county, Chisholm isn’t a one man operation. Go on CCAP on a daily basis. Look at the amount of new charges. Plenty are being charged. Not all go to jail, but that’s not exactly his fault. By that logic, you would hold Brad Schimel responsible for the death of that Oconomowoc teacher who was killed by the repeat drunk driver just days after getting a pass from his office. Do you? I bet you don’t. McCann should’ve done something about. the priests. He let religion get in the way of his job. I agree.

    Now getting back to your professional victim role, digest, you complain about the crime, yet what do you do to stem it? You personally, from the party of personal responsibility, what do you do directly to improve the city? I haven’t seen you at a community clean up. I haven’t seen you helping tutor inner city youths. I haven’t seen you donating time and money directly into the community to help it. You’d rather flee, leave the disenfranchised behind and reinforce their reality that they have no future ad have no outlet but crime because they’ll never have a chance to succeed and crime is the only way they can ensure to have a roof over their heads and food thanks to long-term prison sentences and the fact they really have nothing else going on.

    Conservatives complain and do nothing but point fingers. If you really cared about the city you would be out there petitioning the business community in getting more involved with offering jobs to disadvantaged youths, supporting funding and legislation for zero-tolerance gun laws, funding anti-gang units, funding education and letting educators drive the system, not politicians. Go speak to all these millionaires who whine about not having money yet waste millions giving it away on trite larks like political donations. After all, if they’re in your camp they’ll listen to you. They won’t listen to me, only call me a liberal socialist anti-American just because I want to see the city and the people in it have a better life.

    And Kyle, Yes there’s a difference. I don’t think Chisholm should be recalled for the reasons those in the black community want him to be. I think they’d be better to find a candidate who would vow to hold police accountable for their actions. But you have to open your eyes and see there’s something a little more pressing in trying to fight a DA who isn’t doing anything to protect the lives of those in the community that are supposed to be protecting them than those who want to remove him because they don’t like his politics and think he’s victimizing Walker because he surrounded himself with criminals and made some (possible) very sleezey moves to succeed.

  12. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    How come milwaukee tenth worst run, top ten in violence, top ten in poverty, worst schools, 57% unemployment youth. Where are the Leftist solutions, they created the mess?
    I know, let us build a train to nowhere, a new arena, new parks, museums. That will solve all our problems. The Leftist leaders in this county have ruined it. The County board is bunch of total idiots and the Left defends them

  13. Kyle says:

    I’m not a fan the recent use of recalls over singular issues that has gained popularity recently. I didn’t care for it over the stadium tax, or Act 10, and certainly not for this. But I also think you’re being horribly one sided to claim that these two sides would do the exact same thing, but one is whining and the other is righteous. Also, it’s not the DA’s job to protect the lives of those in the community. You need to take on Flynn for that. If there isn’t a case against someone, he’s not doing his job to bring charges and demand a trial all to satisfy the mob. Even if he did, the mob doesn’t end up happy when the case inevitably fail, they just hate a judge or a jury instead. I don’t see any way this alliance can turn out well. Even if they manage to work together to force a recall, the two sides are going to back equal but opposite extreme candidates.

    Also, just to give you a heads up, you’re about to read all about how WCD has spent decades trying to fix the city only to give up the fight recently. Consider yourself warned.

  14. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Have spent 50 years working to help Milwaukee, like Milwaukee or would not have stayed and worked in inner city pharmacies, nursing homes during that time.
    Ask the cop shop, they arrest them and DA lets them go, pleads them out and they are right back on street.
    Damn few people knpw more about this county than I do casue I ahve worked everywhere. Most of you observe and opionate but few of you are on the ground.
    When are you going to solve the problems: management crime, transportation, poverty, unemployment, schools?? Where are the plans. In 1974 when I was running the Dyke campaign I wanted to break up MPS schools, we should have done that.

  15. smh says:

    Again, these are all just polical pie-in-the-sky things like breaking up MPS that was only proposed to keep it as segregated as possible. Does MPS need help? Yes. And a HUGE part of that help starts in the community. The schools aren’t fully to blame. Problem children tend to come from problem families. It’s true in the city, it’s true in the burbs.

    If you really care, if you really, really care, take your time and your money and invest it in the community. Be it through charity or starting a business or simply walking outside with trash bag and picking up litter.

    Talking about trains and stuff like that are just diversions. Things that get conservative blood boiling as they don’t understand the concepts of economic development and the concepts of proper urban planning. It also has no business in a discussion thread other than to say you have no response to the issues I’ve raised. Come help out sometime in the community. It will do you better than just parroting Mark Belling and standing with Walker no matter how heinous his crimes are. If you want to help the community, then help. If you want to be a professional victim, then fine. stand with the recall and continue to blame others for everything that’s wrong.

  16. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Hm What a dufus? How did that busing work out? Schools are worse not than in 1974, and white families moved out. The purpose of schools is to teach kids to read and do sums, not play social games.

  17. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    smh, have watched the proper urban planning in Milwaukee. Top ten most violent, top ten worst poverty, tope ten worst managed, 57% unemployment for youth, worst schools in country. That is the results of your urban planning. And the answers? Find the violin, forget all the murder of kids, plan to spend 500 million on new Arena for worthless basketball team, 500 million more on parks and museums and finally the “train to nowhere”. Please god, save us from these urban planners.
    Bob and Jean Dohnal
    Wisconsin Conservative Digest on facebook

  18. Patty says:

    In a perfect world, the video of this incident would have shown who was responsible for this boy’s death. Unfortunately it shows very little of the actual attack. I read an article that stated Corey lunged at the clerk. Then I saw the video – describing it that way is really a stretch. He reached across the counter to grab his ID.

    Looking at this from the viewpoint of a mom, I pictured my son in that situation. The actions of the citizens where over the top for the offense committed. Personally, I feel bad for the D.A. He has to decide whether or not guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and unless there were several witnesses and they all had the same story and pinpointed one individual as being the one choking this boy, I don’t see how this case could move forward. Is it fair? Absolutely not, and my heart just breaks for these parents and for Corey. Hopefully these men will carry the result of their hateful actions around for the rest of their lives.

  19. Steve says:

    GOP Rep. Vos proposing restrictions on recall elections

    CREATED Jun. 11, 2012
    MILWAUKEE- Fifteen recall elections have been held in Wisconsin is less than a year.

    Some want recalls to be outlawed — saying they’re a waste of time and money.

    And some are already talking about recalling John Lehman if he does win in Racine.

    But one Republican lawmaker wants to recall the recalls. Republican Representative Robin Vos says he’s against recalling John Lehman. “I don’t think we should be recalling John Lehman, if he ends up winning the election, just because he’s a Democrat,” said Vos.

    Vos would like to see a special session this summer to vote on restricting recalls. “You can only do it if you’ve committed some real breach of the public trust. If you’ve committed a crime or even been charged with an ethical violation.”

  20. Bob Chernow says:

    Here is the kind of public servant that we should be cherishing. He a good, decent and honest guy who works behind the scene to prevent crime and to keep folks out of trouble. I rarely agree with Sherriff Clarke, but in this case I do. The DA is even handed in what he does. And, yes, he is one of the most unpolitical of our public officials.

    I understand the desire to attack the messenger when you don’t like what he says, but that is all that there is beind this “recall”.

  21. Tom Held says:

    The assertion that “we do not put thugs in jail” is absurd. Wisconsin leads the country in incarceration rates for black males

  22. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    If that is true than who is committing all the crimes?? The boy and girl scouts? There is no denying the stats as they come from FBI, course it is hard to cover up murders. Everyone one of those that are arrested for robbery, burglary, assault, battery, rape, murder, drugs have a long list of arrests. Only about 6% of those arrested in gun crimes go to jail.
    there are things that you cannot paper over: top ten most violent, worst poverty, worst management, worst schools, youth unemployment. All Leftist failures as you guys have been in charge, Tom Held.

  23. Tom Held says:

    Interesting statistic – “only 6% of those arrested in gun crimes go to jail.” I’d like to learn more about that. Can anyone share the source material?

  24. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Figure was used by Greg Gutfeld on the “Five” and not challenged by anyone. It has since been used widely. Check it out. The DA pleads everything down and so the thugs are on the street.
    If you listen to Flynn and Barrett the answer to the crime is to take guns away from citizens yhat have had them for 200 years in this state. Does anyone think that taking semi autos away form Wisconsintes, we have over 2 million of them, last year only 3 shooting with them, will solve Milwaukee’s problems?
    The only thing that will solve Milwaukee’s problems is aggressive policing like NY, Austin, Tx and putting thugs in jail.

  25. Tom Held says:

    Thanks for citing the source. I spent a bit of time searching for the data or report to support the 6% figure, and didn’t find anything. Did Gutfeld cite any publications or FBI data? I did find an 11% figure, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics report that included it was somewhat dated.

  26. Kyle says:

    Sheriff Clarke used similar numbers when he filled in for some AM talk radio host last year. Something along the lines of 46 arrests and 3 convictions. I don’t have the time to dig for it at the moment, but that might be another avenue to figure out what the source of the data is. If I find time and the data I’ll post it.

  27. len zubrensky says:

    john Chisholm is an honest and fair straight shooter. he is smart,intelligent and non partisan. I am a retired lawyer and practiced law in Milwaukee for over 50 years. we can be proud of him.

  28. StopGestapoChisholm says:

    Walker’s supporters claim police raided homes over politics.

    The question is, when is someone behind this going to jail? John Chisholm needs to be removed immediately and arrested. Please share and call his office to demand his resignation.
    Phone:(414) 278-4646 / Fax:(414) 223-1955

  29. PMD says:

    Fox News and Walker supporters said it so it must be true.

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