Supreme Court Says Caucus Scandal Can Go to Trial

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: In October of 2002, three lawmakers and an aide were charged with felonies for misconduct in office. Wednesday, a Supreme Court ruling on the caucus scandals clears the way for the case to finally go to trial.

In a 4–0 decision the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the state has the authority to charge lawmakers with misconduct in office. It may have been the final legal hurdle in bringing three lawmakers and a staffer to trial.

Madison Defense Attorney Stephen Hurley has been following this case since the start as an interested neutral observer. "The court has essentially said we can let this go forward. The case is on a trial track now."

Here are the accused:

  • Former Rep. Steve Foti faces one felony charge for misconduct in office.

  • Former Foti staffer Sherry Schultz faces the same felony charge.

  • Current Rep. Scott Jensen faces 3 felonies for misconduct in office and a misdemeanor.

  • Former State Senator Chuck Chvala faces 19 felonies, the charges include misconduct in office, extortion, and filing a false report with the elections board.

The legal delays in the caucus scandal have been going on for so long now that Rep. Jensen has been re–elected to office twice since being charged.

The Supreme Court split 2–2 on another decision, whether the four had fair warning their actions could result in felony charges.

Hurley says that shows the appeals weren't just a stalling tactic. "So I don't think one can look at these issues and say they were at all frivolous."

Hurley says we could see a trial by this summer. "My hunch is the case has been pending for so long that it's going to move swiftly."

The charges are a result of a year long investigation into illegal fundraising, kick backs and dirty politics.

But Hurley says you shouldn't make your mind up yet. "I don't think the public has seen both sides of all the facts yet. And that's what the trial is going to show us–what are both sides on these facts? Is there a defense here based on the facts that's got some meat to it?"

Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard released a statement Wednesday saying he is looking forward to seeing this case resolved as soon as possible.

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