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HomeBreaking NewsFACT CHECK: Waukesha DA Candidate Lesli Boese Disputes Mike Thurston's Trial Statement

FACT CHECK: Waukesha DA Candidate Lesli Boese Disputes Mike Thurston’s Trial Statement


Waukesha Co. DA candidate Lesli Boese wrote that candidate Mike Thurston’s accusations about her trials were “obviously an attempt to deflect from his own record, and my recent press release in regards to his John Chishom donations.”

Waukesha County DA candidates Lesli Boese and Mike Thurston are accusing each other of lying over the number of jury trials Boese has handled, as the race heats up. However, Wisconsin Right Now checked with the Waukesha Freeman about one of Thurston’s central claims against Boese, and the Freeman indicated that an error was made by the reporter, not Boese.

In a June 4 news release, Thurston, a prosecutor in the office, said that Boese had “repeatedly lied about her record as a prosecutor.” She, in turn, accused him of lying about her. He claimed that Boese had falsely told a reporter for the Waukesha Freeman that she had “tried over 10,000 cases.”

Mike thurston, lesli boese
Mike thurston and lesli boese.

Boese, also a career prosecutor in the office who co-chaired the Darrell Brooks prosecution, responded in a June 5 news release, saying she “never claimed to have tried over 10,000 cases. I have prosecuted over 10,000 cases in my career.” Boese wrote that the Freeman reporter had apologized to her and made the error, which was corrected in the newspaper.

Wisconsin Right Now contacted the Freeman’s respected news editor, Karen Pilarski, a veteran in the business, and asked if Boese’s comments were true. “Yes our story said she ‘tried’ 10,000 cases but it should have said ‘prosecuted.’ I put an editor’s note in the online story with her full quote (we didn’t use it in the original story) and we did run a correction after this came to light this week,” Pilarski said. “I checked the text I got from Boese from last August and yes, the wrong term was used.” Asked whether by the “wrong term was used,” she means by the Freeman, Pilarski said, yes, the wrong term was used by the Freeman, not Boese.

The Freeman’s editor’s note on the story says, “This story originally stated incorrectly that Boese has tried over 10,000 cases. During the Waukesha County District Attorney race this story was mentioned and brought to our attention. Upon further review, Boese said, “I have tried over 150 cases in my career and prosecuted over 10,000 cases.”

Thurston claimed in his news release that “the lesson is we can’t trust a DA candidate who misleads and unfortunately, this raises a big red flag about Leslie Boese, who has repeatedly lied about her record as a prosecutor.” His other accusation against Boese is that she claimed in a fundraising letter “to have tried over 170 cases.”

“The truth is, according to public records, she’s only tried 58 cases,” Thurston wrote.

But Boese says that’s not true either.

“I stand in absolute confidence that I have served as a prosecutor in at least 170 trials in my 29 year career. My opponent claims that I have only 58 trials to my name. Thurston’s list is inaccurate and unreliable,” she said. She provided the following examples:

    1. I surmise my opponent’s list was derived from CCAP data. Some cases more than 20 years old are not on CCAP. According to my 1998 calendar, I tried five cases in January alone which do not appear on public record, nor do they appear on my opponent’s list.

    2. I have tried cases in which I was not listed as the assigned prosecutor. This occurred when the assigned prosecutor was unavailable on the date of trial and I substituted for them.  None of these trials are detailed on my opponent’s list.

    3. In full transparency, my opponent listed a case that I didn’t even try. State v. Dennis Flannery, Waukesha County Case Number 2021CF001183

    4. My opponent’s list does not include all of my trials in which I was a co-prosecutor.  One that comes to mind immediately is State v. Ronald W. Wolfe, Waukesha County Case number 2000CF000877, a homicide I tried with Susan Opper.

    5. I tried a large number of cases during my initial years as a prosecutor to gain trial experience. These were predominantly traffic trials assigned to the district attorney, but tried by other prosecutors. I was one of those prosecutors. These also were not on my opponent’s list.

    6. Lastly, trials in which the defendant’s record was expunged have been removed from public record.

Boese wrote that Thurston’s accusations about her trials were “obviously an attempt to deflect from his own record, and my recent press release in regards to his John Chishom donations.”

Boese had raised concerns about Thurston’s five donations to Chisholm, the Democratic Milwaukee DA with a sky-high non-prosecution rate. Thurston previously told Wisconsin Right Now that he doesn’t remember making the donations, which are documented in campaign finance reports. He also told WRN that the donation he does remember came in a year Chisholm had a far worse opponent, Verona Swanigan. However, Swanigan was heavily backed by major conservatives in that race, who were upset by Chisholm’s sweeping and discredited John Doe prosecution against Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his associates. Aaron Sparks, the father of the boy murdered in the Christmas parade attack, has raised concerns on social media about Thurston’s donations.

Both Boese and Thurston are running as Republicans. DA Sue Opper is retiring.

In the latest news release, Thurston declared that he was “outraged” and feels betrayed by “what is hemorrhaging out of Milwaukee County.”

“When John Chisholm was running for DA in a county where only a Democrat could win, he promised his supporters that he would stand up for law and order and put citizens ahead of criminals,” he said. “He hasn’t and Waukesha families and communities have suffered tremendously.”

Thurston said he has tried 133 cases and touted his law enforcement endorsements.

Jessica McBride
Jessica's opinions on this website and all WRN and personal social media pages, including Facebook and X, represent her own opinions and not those of the institution where she works. Jessica McBride, a Wisconsin Right Now contributor, is a national award-winning journalist and journalism educator with more than 25 years in journalism. Jessica McBride’s journalism career started at the Waukesha Freeman newspaper in 1993, covering City Hall. She was an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a decade. Since 2004, she has taught journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in many news outlets, including (where she is a contributor reaching millions of readers per month),, WTMJ, WISN, WUWM,,, Milwaukee Magazine, Nightline, El Conquistador Latino Newspaper, Japanese and German television, Channel 58, Reader’s Digest, Twist (magazine), Wisconsin Public Radio, BBC, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and others. 

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