Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Darrell Brooks Bail Hearing Recording Does Not Exist Due to ‘Technical Issues’ or ‘Human Error’

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There is no recording or transcript of the controversial hearing in which Waukesha parade suspect Darrell Brooks was released on $1,000 bail, Wisconsin Right Now has learned. Milwaukee County blames “technical issues” or “human error.”

Milwaukee County’s court system is unable to produce a recording or transcript of the controversial Darrell Brooks bail hearing that resulted in the Waukesha parade suspect going free just 10 days before the attack, Wisconsin Right Now has exclusively learned. The recording doesn’t exist due to either technical issues or human error, the district court administrator tells WRN.

Indeed, other than a short paragraph on the Wisconsin online court website, the county can produce no transcript or other record of what was said at the hearing at all.

That’s even though the hearing has earned the Milwaukee County District Attorney, John Chisholm, and a court commissioner, Cedric Cornwall, a raft of negative national headlines. Brooks’ $1,000 bail in the pending felony case has sparked renewed criticism of the “bail reform” movement nationwide (read our story rounding up court system failures in the Brooks’ case here).

We requested a transcript or recording of the hearing because we believed the public deserves to know what rationale officials gave for Brooks’ low bail.

Holly szablewski
Holly szablewski

Milwaukee County chief judge, Mary Triggiano, told WRN exclusively that there are “no recordings” for intake court that afternoon, where Brooks’ bail was set at $1,000 on Nov. 5, she believed because of “technical issues.” However, she referred WRN to Holly Szablewski, district court administrator, for additional details. We would note that Triggiano is always very forthcoming and transparent with us; she responds quickly and tries to provide the available details in an expedient fashion.

Szablewsk told Wisconsin Right Now: “No recording is available from which to prepare a transcript. This may have been the result of human error or a technical malfunction.”

She added: “We became aware of a digital audio recording problem in a court commissioner hearing room when we received a request for a transcript of Mr. Brooks’ initial appearance. Upon review, we found that there are no recordings available for the afternoon of 11/5/2021, all-day 11/7/2021, and all-day 11/8/2021.”

The paragraph below is the only record that exists of the controversial hearing, despite its national impact, Szablewski and Triggiano acknowledged. Note that the records reflect a “digital recording,” but it doesn’t exist even though the digital recordings are usually preserved. The live-streamed videos in intake court – called Dacast – are a different matter; they are never preserved, and this one was not, either. If you click on the Dacast link in the below court record paragraph, you get no video.

Darrell brooks bail hearing recording

We wanted to see exactly what was said by the commissioner, an assistant DA (Carole Manchester), and the defense attorney, in the hearing in which Brooks was controversially granted the low bail even though he was accused of a felony for allegedly running over a woman in a gas station parking lot. Furthermore, he was out on $500 bail for another pending felony shots fired case. On Nov. 21, he’s accused of running over dozens of people at the Waukesha Christmas parade, killing six of them and wounding many more, including children and members of the Dancing Grannies troupe.

We requested a recording or transcript from the earlier 2020 bail hearing too, and we were told one will likely be available because the hearing was in front of a judge, with a court reporter, whereas initial appearances before court commissioners are usually recorded only. However, we haven’t received the transcript yet.

Milwaukee County intake courts, where bail is generally set, are digitally recorded. The court records online even indicate “digital recording” and “video conferencing” next to the hearing where Court Commissioner Cedric Cornwall set Brooks’ bail at $1,000. He posted it on Nov. 11.

After the parade attack, John Chisholm acknowledged his assistant DA, Carole Manchester, recommended bail that was “inappropriately low.” Chisholm promised an investigation.

Darrell Brooks Bail Hearing Recording Missing

“Due to technical issues with the digital audio recording unit, there are no recordings for proceedings that occurred in Intake Court the afternoon of November 5th.  We had problems on other days as well.  In addition, we do not record the Dacast video hearings,” Triggiano wrote WRN.

Darrell brooks bail hearing recording

We sent Szablewski a list of follow-up questions:

What are the problems and what caused them?

“No recording is available from which to prepare a transcript. This may have been the result of human error or a technical malfunction,” Szablewski said. “Because court commissioner hearings are not required to be on the record (see Wisconsin Supreme Court rule 71.01(2)(a)), the digital audio equipment is not monitored on a real time basis.  As a result, we were not aware of the problem as it was occurring and therefore cannot speculate as to what caused the issue.”

Is there any other record of the 2021 bail hearing? Was there a court reporter/written transcript… is there any other backup?

Szablewski responded, “The record of Mr. Brooks’ initial appearance can also be found in the clerk’s notes entered in the court record for that case. This is also known as the ‘minute record’ required under Wis. Stat. 59.40(2). Under Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 71.01(2)(a), a verbatim record is not required in proceedings before a court commissioner that may be reviewed de novo before a judge (i.e., bail and conditions of bail set at an initial appearance). ”

Has this happened before? What’s the vendor?

Szablewski responded, “Although infrequent, we have had other instances of no recordings with the equipment in this court commissioner hearing room.  This is not a vendor-provided service. The digital audio recording equipment, as well as the courtroom audio system, has been purchased by the county and is operated by court staff.”

Here’s part of what Chisholm said in his previous statement about the hearing:

“The State made a cash bail request in this case of $1,000, which was set by the court. The defendant posted $1,000 cash bail on November 11, resulting in his release from custody.

The State’s bail recommendation, in this case, was inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent changes and the pending charges against Mr. Brooks.”

Read his full statement here.

 

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Trump Thwarts Haley in Her Native South Carolina, Rolls on to Michigan

Sweeping a fourth consecutive primary by a significant margin, former President Donald Trump left South Carolina victorious on Saturday and on a roll heading into Michigan on Tuesday.

Nikki Haley, two-term governor of South Carolina and a former United Nations ambassador in Trump’s administration, was overwhelmed in unofficial very early vote count totals. The race was called minutes after the closing of polls at 7 p.m. Eastern.

South Carolinians, who do not register by party and could choose to vote in either but not both primaries, in early voting exceeded the more than 131,000 votes cast – about 4% – in the Democratic primary on Feb. 3 when 96% chose President Joe Biden.

South Carolina has about 3.3 million registered voters and gets nine of the 538 Electoral College votes in November's general election.

At stake in the South’s first Republican primary were 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on July 15-18. Twenty-nine went to Trump as the statewide winner; three delegates each go to winners in the seven congressional districts, respectively. Those results were still pending at time of publication, though Trump was projected to up his total to 44 of the state's 50.

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," Trump said in a victory speech that began minutes after the polls closed. "You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work."

The nation’s 45th president added to previous caucuses and primary wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the first non-incumbent GOP candidate to open with such a sweep since 1976's primary and caucuses calendar change. Since 1980, only Newt Gingrich in 2012 won South Carolina's Republican primary without reaching the national ticket.

In a social media post in the final hour before polls closed, Haley wrote, "Filled with gratitude today. Getting to vote with my mom and my kids at my side is a memory I’ll cherish forever."

Immigration, inflation, energy, an America-first foreign policy and revenge from the 2020 loss to Biden have been hallmarks of the 77-year-old Trump’s campaign.

“No country could sustain what is happening to the United States of America,” Trump, during his victory speech, said of the ongoing situation at the U.S. border with Mexico. “Right now, our country is a laughing stock all over the world. Our country is going to be respected again, respected like never before.”

On the campaign trail in Rock Hill on Friday, Trump said Haley was staying in the race to help Democrats. The flip side is Haley’s supporters see Trump and his 91 criminal charges as the GOP choice that Democrats would want to face their candidate.

Trump also served up comments on race – sparking partisan critiques – when speaking to a friendly crowd at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia later in the evening.

Haley, 52, was in Greenville on Tuesday saying she’s campaigning to save the country, led by the topics of education, economy, immigration, homicides, fentanyl and foreign policy. She voted in Kiawah Island on Saturday morning, having spent Friday in Moncks Corner among other stops.

Haley says Trump brings chaos and will be unelectable in the general election, though national polls including The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll disagree. In a Marquette Law School national poll released Wednesday, proposed 1-on-1 races have Haley defeating Biden 58%-42% and Trump beating Biden 51%-49%.

Prior to Saturday, Real Clear Politics' polling average showed Trump ahead of Haley 63%-32% in South Carolina. Nationally, the advantage climbs to 75%-17%.

While Haley has tirelessly been asked about stepping out of the race, campaign manager Betsy Ankney on Friday confirmed a “seven-figure” ad buy for Super Tuesday states. The March 5 primary schedule includes 15 Republican and 14 Democratic primaries.

(This is a developing story and will be updated.)

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Wisconsin GOP Congressmen: Evers Drew Congressional Maps He Wants Struck Down

(The Center Square) – Some of Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen say there is a problem with Gov. Tony Evers’ latest problems with the state’s political maps.

Evers this week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take a look at the state’s congressional maps.

"MONDAY: I signed fair maps for Wisconsin’s Legislature," Evers tweeted Wednesday. "NEXT UP: fair maps for our congressional districts."

The liberal law firm The Elias Group has already asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider the state’s congressional maps, just like the court reconsidered the state’s legislative maps.

The high court tossed those state maps back in December. But Wisconsin lawmakers ended the court’s review and replacement by passing Evers’ preferred maps for Assembly and Senate districts.

Western Wisconsin Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden on Wednesday pointed out the Congressional maps are also Evers’ own.

“The maps are a 100% product of the Dems,” Van Orden said in a tweet. “Evers drew them. Zero Republicans voted for them. Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. US Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. This is a naked power Dem grab.”

WOW County Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald said the same thing.

“I’d like to remind @GovEvers that he is asking the State Supreme Court to review the Congressional maps HE drew,” Fitzgerald said in a tweet. “The map he is now seeking to overturn was drafted by Evers and based off a 2011 bipartisan map, approved by the liberals on the state Supreme Court and survived a challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Evers said reviewing the Congressional maps is part of his effort to “do the right thing.”

"We want to end gerrymandering in Wisconsin at every level, so I’m asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review our congressional maps to make sure those are fair, too."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not yet said what it plans to do with the challenge to the congressional maps.

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Wisconsin Assembly Approves Plan to Splits Choice School Funding From Public Schools

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin is considering a massive shift in how public and choice schools get their money.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved the plan to decouple the Racine and statewide school voucher programs, replacing the local property tax money that currently pays for those programs with state dollars.

“Currently, legacy charter schools are completely funded by [general purpose revenues]. The Milwaukee Choice program will be funded completely by GPR by 2025,” Rep. Ellen Schutt, R-Clinton, said. “What this bill does, is says that new independent charter schools, and the rest of the choice program should also be funded by GPR and not by aid-reductions from the local school district.”

That would shift millions of dollars for choice schools in Wisconsin from local school districts to the state.

It would also mean a steadier and more reliable stream of dollars for choice schools.

“Decoupling resolves an issue that involves how the current funding mechanism affect public schools and property taxes. This has been a sore spot that creates unnecessary tension between public and private schools,” School Choice Wisconsin President Nic Kelly told The Center Square. “Decoupling is good tax policy that was already enacted for Milwaukee years ago. We want the rest of the state to be treated the same way.”

Decoupling would mean a boost for public schools. Schutt’s legislation would give public schools a one-time, 25% revenue limit increase. The legislature says that will cost as much as $351 million for the next school year.

Some public schools could end up losing money in general state aid, but the decouple legislation would hold them harmless.

“This bill will really help our public schools when they're setting their budgets every year, giving them some idea about how much money they truly will have,” Schutt added. “It will fix the confusion that is currently out there with the way we fund choice and charter, because it's different based on the type of school it is. We had some administrators come down to testify and say that this was really a great idea, and actually Gov. [Tony] Evers supported this idea when he was the superintendent back in 2015.”

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, however said during debate on the plan that Evers’ office no longer wants to talk about decoupling.

The proposal next heads to the Wisconsin Senate.

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Assembly Majority Leader Puts Responsibility on Milwaukee to Restore Faith in Vote Count

(The Center Square) – The number-two in the Wisconsin Assembly says if lawmakers can’t come to terms on an early count law, it is up to Milwaukee to restore the voters’ faith in their election operation.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said he doesn’t have the votes to pass Monday Count legislation. It would allow Milwaukee to count ballots the day before election day in order to avoid an after-midnight vote dump.

Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said Republicans in the Senate should vote on the plan. If they don't, August said, then Milwaukee’s election managers need to act.

“It's incumbent upon the city of Milwaukee to get their act together and count those ballots during the day and have that done so that there isn't constantly this question about the processes in the city of Milwaukee,” August said.

Milwaukee uses a central count location, and election managers in the city say that slows down the counting of absentee ballots. Many times, that leaves a lull between when the votes from election day are tallied, and when the absentee vote count is delivered.

Critics say that lull, and the after-midnight ballot drop, leads to questions about election integrity in Milwaukee.

“People feel like the election is heading in one direction, [then] all the ballots come in at one time in the middle of the night, and it appears that there's some kind of nefarious nature to what's going on,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday.

Critics of the Monday Count plan also see room for something nefarious. They fear that if Milwaukee has an absentee ballot count ahead of election day, then someone can somehow manufacture an exact number of votes to win.

August said other communities in Wisconsin don’t have the same troubles as Milwaukee and said that’s part of the problem.

“When I go to vote in the city of Lake Geneva they are processing those absentee ballots, there are hundreds of them in Lake Geneva, as well as a smaller staff, less election workers than in the city of Milwaukee has, and they're able to get those done and part of their report that they send into the county clerk by like 9 p.m.,” August said. “So, Milwaukee needs to take a look at what they're doing when it comes to counting absentee ballots, and for their own sake to prove to the people that their processes are secure, and safe, and fair. And get those reports in well before the middle of the night.”

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Denver Schools Facing ‘Unprecedented Challenge’ With Influx of Migrant Students

Denver’s public school system has been taking in as many as 250 new students a week since the new year, which it attributes to the increase in the number of migrants arriving in the city.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero called the situation an “unprecedented challenge” in a message to the community posted on the district’s website. The district said the influx of new students will cost an additional $837,000 “to support additional needs across the system.”

From July 1, 2023 to January 2024, there were 3,221 new-to-country students with more than 1,300 coming to Denver schools since Oct. 1, 2023, the district stated.

The district is hiring more staff to deal with the increase in students and focusing on hiring people who are bilingual, according to the superintendent.

“The pace of new arrivals has remained steady since the start of 2024, with roughly 200-250 students joining us each week,” a report to the school board stated last week.

On Feb. 5, the city of Denver started enforcing 42-day limits on migrants living in city-owned shelters.

“We are watching enrollment data closely over the next few weeks to see if/how our student population moves in response,” the report stated.

The school district provides a phone number to call “to speak to someone in your language.”

The district has struggled with dwindling enrollment since the pandemic. Enrollment reached 93,800 in the 2019-20 school year and then fell to 90,300 in the 2020-2021 pandemic year. In 2021-22, enrollment stayed about the same at 90,250 and then dropped to 89,200 in 2022-23.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been sending migrants from Texas to sanctuary cities across the U.S. On Feb. 12, Abbott posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Texas has bused more than 16,200 migrants to Denver.

"Texas will not stop until President Biden secures the border," Abbott stated on X.

Denver Public Schools did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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Wisconsin Assembly Eyes Limits on Governor’s Veto Powers

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are taking the first step to reign in some of the governor’s veto power.

Lawmakers on Tuesday took up Assembly Joint Resolution 112, which would change the Wisconsin Constitution to stop the governor from raising a tax or a fee on his own.

“Wisconsin's unique partial veto is considered one of the most powerful policy tools in the country,” Rep. Amanda Nedweski, R-Pleasant Prairie, told reporters. “From Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson's infamous Vanna White veto, to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers 402-year tax increase, we have seen abuse of the partial veto addressed with proposed constitutional amendments by legislatures nearly 30 times in the last century.”

Nedweski said this proposed constitutional amendment would apply to Evers specifically, but would apply to all future governor’s as well by banning the governor from single handedly increasing taxes or creating fees.

“The will of the people is the law of the land, not the will of the governor,” Nedweski added. “This would appropriately rebalance power between the executive and the legislature, and further restrict the executive from completely rewriting the law. The governor is not a legislator, and the partial veto was not intended to give the governor legislative power.”

Tuesday's vote was the first vote for the plan. It would need to pass the legislature again next year before it would go to the voters, likely next spring.

“We very narrowly crafted this legislation to address the specific situations that we believe members of the public would find the most egregious, the ability for a single person to increase taxes or fees on the people of Wisconsin with the single stroke of a pen,” Nedweski said. “The people should not be subjected to political trickery that does not reflect their will as represented by their legislators.”

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