A complaint demanding that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers remove Milwaukee County's district attorney from office over a bail recommendation for a man who later drove his SUV through a suburban parade isn't valid, an attorney hired by the governor's administration concluded Tuesday.
The complaint from a group of Milwaukee County taxpayers has a host of technical shortcomings, attorney Matthew Fleming wrote in a memo to Evers. Nothing indicates the group swore oaths that they believe their statements were true, notary verifications were incomplete and the group failed to allege any facts that show Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm neglected his duties, Fleming wrote.
“It is my opinion that (the complaint) . . . fails to meet the statutory standards necessary for Governor Evers to commence the process for removing Mr. Chisholm from office,” Fleming wrote.
The administration hired Fleming at $275 an hour to review the complaint that was filed last month over Chisholm's office's handling of a case involving Darrell Brooks, who is accused of killing six people in a Christmas parade in Waukesha in November. He was released on $1,000 bail just days earlier after allegedly running over the mother of his child with his SUV.
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Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said in an email to The Associated Press that the governor can't legally take any action in light of Fleming's conclusions. But “in the event of new, additional facts, concerns, or complaints raised, the governor will give that information full consideration and review to protect public safety and keep our communities safe,” she added.
Republicans and other critics have accused Chisholm of essentially enabling the parade attack. Chisholm has said bail for Brooks should have been higher but that an overworked assistant district attorney didn’t have time to assess his case and needed to move on to the next one.
Chisholm has pushed for ending cash bail, saying it’s not fair to poor defendants. He wants a new system in which only violent offenders are jailed until trial.
Evers and Chisholm are both Democrats. Orville Seymer, the leader of the group that filed the complaint, said in a telephone interview that he believes the group did everything right, even having an attorney draft the complaint.
“I think everybody knew Evers was looking for a way out of this,” Seymer said. “He didn’t want to deal with this in the first place. In the long run, this is going to hurt (his reelection chances). The people of Waukesha are going to be really, really angry with Evers.”
Brooks' case has pushed Republicans legislators to introduce bills that would require a $10,000 minimum bond for people who have previously committed a felony or violent misdemeanor. They would also would require the Wisconsin Department of Justice to create a “bond transparency report” detailing crime and bond conditions.
Evers' office released a letter Tuesday that the governor sent to Chisholm last month noting that Chisholm has launched an internal investigation into Brooks' bail. The governor told Chisholm he expects the investigation to be impartial and transparent and that he wants assurances that Chisholm's office will make bail recommendations that won't jeopardize public safety.
“Many of us have spent the interceding days (since the parade) mourning this tragedy and the lives taken from us,” Evers wrote. “So, too, we spent these days rightfully seeking answers for how this tragedy happened, justice for those families and the Waukesha community, and solutions necessary to ensure something like this never happens again.”
A message left at Chisholm's office wasn't immediately returned.