UPDATE: Man wrongfully convicted gets max state compensation

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email
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UPDATED: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 --- 11:41 a.m.

A man who was wrongfully convicted of rape and spent 8 years in prison before being exonerated, will be getting state compensation for his time spent behind bars.

Joseph Frey was unsure if his compensation would ever come from the state, he's been out of prison since last Fall. Rep. Gary Hebl says the State Claims board doesn't always grant the compensations.

The State Claims board decided Tuesday that Joseph Frey will get the maximum amount of compensation that the state can give, $25,000.

Frey says he plans on putting the money in the bank and saving it to finish up his education. He's now taking classes at MATC and hopes to transfer to UW-Madison.

Frey says hopefully the $25,000 will hold out until a bi partisan bill that would increase compensation for wrongfully convicted people in Wisconsin can pass.

The bill would bring Wisconsin up to the National standard of $50,000 per year from the current $5,000 per year.


UPDATED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 --- 5:56 p.m.

He spent 8 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, now a bill that could increase the money he gets from the state isn't going anywhere this legislative session.

The Assembly has wrapped up for the year and the Senate has one more day on the floor, but the bill that would increase pay-out to someone who was wrongfully convicted, hasn't been up for a vote in either chamber. Meaning Joseph Frey will have to keep waiting.

"Better to have 100 guilty men go free than to lock up one innocent," says Frey.

We first introduced you to him last fall, newly exonerated from a life sentence.

"Things have changed quite a bit."

Now going to college, living on his own, and just barely managing to make ends meet, he says the state needs to up the ante for its mistake.

"You cannot really calculate how much a persons worth is once it's been lost."

"Currently the law says that the maximum you can recover if you're wrongfully convicted is 5 thousand a year up to a cap of 25 thousand," say Rep. Gary Hebl.

Democratic Representative Gary Hebl says the law set almost 75 years ago now, was extremely progressive at the time, but nothings been done to update it. Meanwhile, neighboring states have far surpassed us. With Illinois coughing up $85,000 for five years and Iowa, up to $216,000.

Hebl introduced the bipartisan bill this year that would bring Wisconsin up to par with the national standard set 10 years ago. $50,000 a year with no cap. So why didn't either chamber take a vote on the bill? Representative Hebl says he can only speculate.

"They didn't want any budgetary expenditures whether it's for school, health care, or a wrongly convicted individual."

He says it was Majority Leader Pat Strachota who wouldn't place it on the calendar.

"She said to me 'you know, there's no dollar amount that's going to compensate these wrongly convicted individuals so lets not give them anymore.'"

"I'm not so much upset or mad as i am frustrated that something that is so right to do cant be done in a reasonable matter of time," says Frey.

Adding to his frustration, Frey still hasn't seen the $25,000 he's entitled to, and is waiting for a board to make that decision. Frey says he'll find out in the next couple weeks if he'll even get the initial $25,000.

According to the Wisconsin Innocence Project only 31 people have ever been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted in Wisconsin. If re-elected Hebl plans to reintroduce the bill but it faces an uphill battle with it's majority co-sponsor retiring.

UPDATED: Monday, November 1, 2013 --- 12:00 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

A man who spent eight years wrongfully imprisoned is building a new life on the outside without much help from the state.

Joseph Frey moved from a prison in Stanley, Wis. to Madison this summer. He was originally sentenced to 102 years behind bars for a sexual assault in Oshkosh in 1991. With help from the Wisconsin Innocence Project, a bed sheet was retested and DNA matched another man, prompting the district attorney to drop the charges. But those freed from prison in Wisconsin receive less help than those that finish their sentences.

"I'm not the same person I was, definitely," said Frey, who was homeless after he was released. "I had literally nothing. No ID's, no social security, birth certificate, very little medication for all the drugs I do take."

Those transitioning from incarceration to probation receive case workers that help with housing, employment and other needs. Frey can only hope for the state's maximum reward for those wrongfully imprisoned of $5,000 per year for five years.

"We've fallen to dead last in terms of the dollar amount we give and second last we give in the amount per year that we provide," said Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie). He says current compensation levels were set more than 30 years ago. He plans to introduce a bill that would raise potential compensation for those like Frey to those offered at the federal level.

If approved in its current form, the bill would allow those like Frey dating back to 1990 to receive up to $50,000 per year tax-free forever. They could also apply for the same medical coverage offered to state employees.

Frey was the Innocence Project's 19th exoneration. They helped write the proposed compensation changes.

"What is the cost of having family and friends? What is the cost of having the ability to get to give someone a hug any time you want to do that? What is the ability to get up in the middle of the night and go get a soda if you want, how much does someone have to pay you for you to give that up, especially when that's been taken away from you wrongly?" said Tricia Bushnell, who led the team fighting for Frey.

"It's not just about money he could have earned. It's about education he could have had, experiences he could have had, relationships he could have formed, so that's what that's paying for."

Rep. Hebl and Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) plan to introduce the bill soon. Bies is former chief deputy sheriff in Door County.


UPDATED Sunday, July 21, 2013 --- 8:15 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A man whose conviction for a 1991 rape was overturned is staying at a Madison homeless shelter.

Joseph Frey received a 102-year sentence for the attack on a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student.

The now 54-year-old was freed this month after new DNA tests matched evidence to a man convicted of sexually assaulting two sisters in Fond du Lac but has since died.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1b4WvQY ) Frey also can't afford medication for a degenerative bone disease, blood clots and other health problems.

Wisconsin Innocence Project attorney Tricia Bushnell, who helped exonerate Frey, says the state doesn't provide social services like they would for someone released on a mandatory release date.

If he's lucky, Frey will qualify for the maximum $25,000 the state can award to the wrongfully convicted.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press
UPDATED Friday, July 12, 2013 --- 10:30 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

The lawyers for a man freed Friday say another man likely committed the crime.

The Madison-based Wisconsin Innocence Project prompted DNA tests on sheets involved in a 1991 sexual assault at knifepoint at UW-Oshkosh. The results did not match the man in prison for the crime but instead another man in the offender database.

"We were hoping that under the new testing we could upload it to match someone who was in the offender database and that is exactly what happened," said Wisconsin Innocence Project Lawyer Tricia Bushnell. "That person was there in her bedroom and has no other reason to be there. They went and checked with the victim, they went and checked with the roommates, thus it solidifies the theory that he was the one that did it."

Fifty-four-year-old Joseph Frey was being held in the Winnebago County Jail since his conviction was overturned in May. Prosecutors chose not to re-try the case. Bushnell said Frey was convicted originally on unreliable witness identification and a criminal history involving other sexual assaults.

UPDATED Friday, July 12, 2013 --- 7:34 p.m.

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) -- A man whose conviction for a 1991 rape was overturned has been set free.

Fifty-four-year-old Joseph Frey was being held in the Winnebago County Jail since his conviction was overturned in May. Oshkosh Northwestern Media reports (http://oshko.sh/18c2Y85 ) he was released from jail Friday after prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the case, saying there was insufficient evidence to retry him.

Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, says Frey will receive assistance from a transitional housing program in Madison.

Frey had been convicted of breaking into a UW-Oshkosh student's apartment in 1991 and sexually assaulting her at knifepoint. The Innocence Project eventually took up his case, and got DNA found at the crime scene retested. The DNA was determined to match another man who has since died.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2013 --- 11:22 a.m.

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin man who has spent two decades in prison for rape has had his conviction overturned.

Fifty-three-year-old Joseph Frey has been serving a 102-year sentence for an attack on a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student. The woman was sexually assaulted at knifepoint after her apartment was broken into in 1991.

Judge Daniel Bissett overturned Frey's conviction Wednesday after new DNA tests matched evidence from the crime scene to a man convicted of sexually assaulting two sisters, ages 12 and 13, in Fond du Lac. Those assaults happened after the attack on the UW-Oshkosh student. The man has since died.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Frey remains in the Winnebago County Jail on $100,000 bail while prosecutors decide whether to retry him.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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