Will John Chisholm Keep Making The Same Mistake Over And Over Again


Will John Chisholm Keep Making The Same Mistake Over And Over Again

CREATED Aug. 28, 2012

It's "Wagner's Rule of Life #4": Never make the same mistake twice! 

Or, in the case of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, never make the same mistake over and over again?

I've always said that if you show me a prosecutor who has never lost a case, I'll show you a prosecutor who isn't trying the tough ones.  However it's one thing to take a difficult case to trial and lose, it's quite another to ham handedly manufacture a case that should have never been brought in the first place.

And that latter description pretty accurately describes the cluster-you-know-what that was the ill-fated prosecution of former Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas.

Many times, a prosecution will go south when a key witness fails to testify as expected or a key piece of evidence is suddenly ruled inadmissible.  None of that happened in the Johnny Thomas case.  The DA's Office presented all the evidence it had - and still the jury returned a "Not Guilty" verdict in less time that it often takes to order lunch.  This was, in other words, an epic fail.

There are lots of legitimate questions about why this case was brought in the first place, how the investigation was handled and whether at least one key allegation in the criminal complaint was misleading or worse?

Personally, I wonder why the recorded conversations about the alleged bribe were so vague?  I mean, if you're bribing someone, why not just say so so there's no ambiguity?

I also question why the government informant was allowed to have an unrecorded conversation with the defendant shortly after the alleged bribe was accepted.  Thomas testified that he was concerned about the cash "donation" and was seeking guidance about its legality.  The informant disputed this interpretation of the meeting.  However there was no recording to prove or disprove the informant's claim.  A smart prosecutor should have probably realized that this discrepancy in and of itself was enough to create reasonable doubt!

As a result, the DA's Office now looks incompetent at best and racist at worst  As an aside, I agree with the former assertion but disagree with the latter.

So where do we go from here?

For the last two plus years, the DA's Office has been running a leak-filled John Doe investigation into the activities of members of then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's Administration.  The two year probe has resulted in a handful of charges against County employees (the most serious of which involve two political operatives).

The investigators however don't seem satisfied with relatively small fish and appear to be chasing bigger targets.  To get these targets, it appears they're focusing on a convoluted theory involving bid-rigging for a contract that was ultimately never bid out.  As I've said before, good luck with that! 

I mean, if you can't convict a politician who was recorded while allegedly taking a bribe, how can you convict someone on bid-rigging when no bids were rigged?  

As  the John Doe investigation has rambled on and on, there have been more and more questions into the conduct of the prosecutors and the political motivations that may be driving some of the inquiries.  For me, if you have to spend over two years trying to find criminal activity, maybe that should tell you that there's really no there there!

The Johnny Thomas fiasco is a huge blow to the credibility of the Milwaukee County DA's Office.  So now the question is whether John Chisholm will learn from his mistake and start to rein in some of his more aggressive employees?

In other words, will he be satisfied with the charges he has and concentrate on securing convictions - then declare victory and move on.

Or will John Chisholm continue to make the same mistake over and over again?