Attorneys Rush to Chisholm’s Defense
Worried about possible recall, they plan fundraiser for the DA. But will it help him?
You are hereby invited to a political fundraiser for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm at Pabst Best Place on May 12. Your hosts are Vince Bobot, Matthew Flynn and six other attorneys, who suggest you contribute $50, though they won’t mind if you give more.
Just to make sure you understand the gravity of the situation, the emailed invitation, sent out in early May, attached two of the stories I’ve written about the potential recall of Chisholm. The recall’s organizers are led by African American activists in Milwaukee who are outraged by Chisholm’s handling of incidents where blacks in custody were killed, but they have combined with leaders of conservative third party groups (like the Wisconsin Club for Growth) which have been targeted (along with Gov. Scott Walker) by Chisholm’s John Doe investigation. These conservatives mostly live outside the county, but would be very interested in bankrolling an effort to toss Chisholm out of office, as I’ve reported.
Longtime PR operative H. Carl Mueller, who has helped organize the fundraiser, says its organizers wanted attorneys in town to know about the possible recall. “Clearly, that is somewhat of a threat.”
“He is under attack from out-of-state conservative groups who are attempting to stop the John Doe,” Flynn says. “It’s an attempt to stop a criminal investigation. We want to make it clear to the public that Chisholm is a top-notch DA.”
The fundraiser is a “spontaneous fundraiser” put together by local attorneys, Flynn notes. Strategically speaking, however, the invitation may have made a fatal error: Not one of the eight attorneys listed as a host is black.
The other six attorneys listed as hosts include Peter Bruce, Craig Mastantuono, Mark Darnieder, Jay Urban, David Geraghty and Julius Kim. “Those are the first people who stepped up and said yes,” notes Foley & Lardner attorney Tom Mullooly, who serves as campaign treasurer for Chisholm.
Which may add fuel to the fire for black activists already angered by Chisholm’s handling of various cases, says one politico who is close to the recall effort. Chisholm declined to file charges in the death of 16-year-old Corey Stingley, who died after his alleged theft in a West Allis story, when he was wrestled to the ground and restrained by white customers. In another incident, Chisholm also declined to press charges against any of three Milwaukee Police Officers who restrained and failed to help 22 year-old Derek Williams, who died in their custody in 2011. Chisholm also fanned the flames with his prosecution of Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas for bribery. The jury voted not guilty in just 90 minutes, but by then Thomas, the anointed candidate for city comptroller, had lost both his job as supervisor and his chance to become comptroller.
The irony is that Thomas was among three black office holders, all liberals and/or Democrats, that Chisholm has prosecuted, yet he is accused by O’Keefe and other conservatives of targeting Walker and them due to partisan, Democratic motives. Chisholm just can’t seem to win, and this latest fundraiser may not help all that much.
One politico pointed to the attempted recall of Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling in 2012, where both sides raised $7 million, as a likely model for how much could be raised if the recall happens. Chisholm’s chances of raising several million are probably pretty slim.
The recall’s prime organizers are Tory Lowe and Monique Taylor, who previously organized a Copwatch group in Milwaukee following the death of Derek Williams. Taylor declined to offer any details as to whether or when the recall might occur. The source suggests it probably wouldn’t happen until this fall.
Any recall attempt would need to gain the signatures of 25 percent of the total amount of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election in Milwaukee County, meaning just over 99,000 signatures would be required.
There has been “a lot of dissatisfaction with Chisholm, particularly with the West Allis situation,” expressed on black talk radio shows, says Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Milwaukee Community Journal. He told the conservative Wisconsin Reporter he supported a recall.
Are Judges Ruling on John Doe Partisan?
The question of whether Chisholm’s second John Doe probe involving Walker will be killed has become something of a pissing match between U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Randa made a ruling Tuesday night declaring the probe must be shut down, because it violated the civil rights of O’Keefe and other targets of the probe. But the next day the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision Wednesday blocking Randa’s order.
The appeals court said Randa didn’t have the authority to issue that order, and could stop the investigation only if he found the appeal made by Chisholm’s lawyers in an attempt to dismiss the civil rights case against them was frivolous. So Randa turned around and did just that, calling the appeal “the height of frivolousness,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported.
Now, the appeals panel must decide whether to approve or overrule Randa.
Randa has a Republican background. He won election to the Milwaukee Circuit Court and then was appointed to the state Court of Appeals by Republican Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus in 1981. He was appointed a federal district judge in 1992 by Republican President George H. Bush.
The appeals court’s members include Judges Diane Wood, William Bauer and Frank Easterbrook. Wood was appointed to the court by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1995; Easterbrook was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1985; and Bauer was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1974.
Seven years ago, the same three appellate judges slapped Randa down, in the conviction of state purchasing supervisor Georgia Thompson, who was charged with making sure a state travel contract went to a firm linked to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle‘s re-election campaign. (The situation was labeled “Travelgate” by Republicans.) The appeals court called the evidence used to convict Thompson “beyond thin” and ordered her immediate release from prison.
We may soon learn what they think of Randa’s latest ruling.