Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Making bratwurst in Milwaukee

While the US Attorney pot simmers along in Minnesota, they are pretty well done making the bratwurst out of Steve Biskupic in Wisconsin:

Steve Biskupic, the U.S. attorney for Milwaukee, indicted and convicted a Wisconsin state purchasing supervisor named Georgia Thompson for improperly awarding a contract to a firm linked to Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's 2006 reelection campaign.

The only problem is that Biskupic never proved that Thompson ever knew about the relationship, which included completely legal donations. Thompson - appointed by Gov. Doyle's Republican predecessor - has never even met Doyle and is not alleged to have sought any personal gain since she was already at the highest civil service pay scale. The winning bid and the runner-up were statistically tied on the seven-member commission's rating scale, but the winner was legitimately chosen because it was $30,000 cheaper and came from in-state.

Couple this with a trial judge who is on the Advisory Board for the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, as MNO pointed out a couple of posts ago here on the Stool and it has to make one wonder, especially when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction from the bench. In other words, boys and girls, the appeals court judges didn't even have to deliberate to conclude the case was a stinker. But this is what the Wisconsin Republicans did with the conviction:

But an election was coming up, and the allegations proved a great way to attack the Democratic incumbent. Doyle said Republican officials spent "millions of dollars" running ads that turned Thompson into a symbol of corruption in his administration. Caught in the middle was Georgia Thompson, who, her lawyer said, lost "her job, her life savings, her home and her liberty." She was ordered to prison for 18 months by conservative District Judge Rudolf Randa (a member of the Federalist Society) without letting her remain free pending appeal because he had "no real reason to expect her conviction to be reversed."

Fortunately, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had another idea. Two of the three judges hearing the case were appointed by Republicans, but they each blasted the government's arguments relentlessly, at one point calling them "beyond thin." Oral arguments lasted just 26 minutes, after which they immediately ordered Thompson's release from federal prison. Normally, such reversals take weeks or months and often result only in new hearings.

As the article states, it is highly unusual for a conviction to be vacated; usually the case is sent back to the trial court for a retrial in the case of a reversal. And as Spot said earlier, to do that immediately after an oral argument is unheard of.

Courageous US Attorney Steve Biskupic did not appear for the appellate court hearing of court:

It's really too bad that Biskupic wimped out from the Appeals Court hearing, sending one of his underlings in his place like a lamb to slaughter. You can hear the whole thing by clicking here; skip to the middle for the good stuff.

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