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HomeBreakingLesli Boese Says Mike Thurston Amended 1/3 of Cases; He Slams Her...

Lesli Boese Says Mike Thurston Amended 1/3 of Cases; He Slams Her ‘Backlog’ & Trial Numbers

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This is story 2 in WRN’s 7-part series on the Waukesha County District Attorney’s race, based on the recent DA debate sponsored by the Republican Party of Waukesha County. Read story 1 here.

What metric should be used to measure the prosecutorial performance of the two deputy district attorneys who are running for the top job? Candidates Lesli Boese and Mike Thurston disagreed sharply over that question during a DA debate.

Thurston slammed the number of jury trials she’s handled, saying he’s handled far more in the past decade, and he said the drug unit she supervises has a “backlog” of cases waiting to be charged, whereas he doesn’t. Thurston said Boese’s drug unit has 103 uncharged cases, some dating back to 2019.

She slammed his dismissal and amendment numbers. According to Boese, Thurston reduced 32% of his cases in a recent time frame from felonies to misdemeanors and dismissed 20% of them, numbers much higher than hers. In contrast, Boese said, “2% of my caseload was amended from felonies to misdemeanors. 11% was dismissed.”

The two candidates both handle key units in the office; she supervises the drug unit, whereas he handles sensitive crimes, such as sexual assault and domestic violence cases. To be sure, those cases can be very different, so it’s not a direct apples-to-apples comparison.

Mike thurston, lesli boese
Mike thurston and lesli boese.

However, the numbers do help paint a picture. Anyone can say they will be “tough on crime.” But have they been? There are different ways to measure that. Wisconsin Right Now has a pending open records request with the Waukesha County District Attorney’s office, seeking the non-prosecution numbers for both candidates.

The metrics came from the candidates’ comments in a June 19 debate sponsored by the Republican Party of Waukesha County. The two are running as Republicans in the Aug. 13 primary.

“The metric is trials,” Thurston said. “A very transparent metric by which you can measure a prosecutor’s aggressiveness.” He said he’s tried “five times” the number of trials as Boese has in the past 10 years.

However, Boese disputed Thurston’s claims on the number of jury trials she’s handled during the last decade. He said she handled 17 jury trials in the last 10 years compared to his 84, but she said the correct number is more than 40 because he missed trials she took over from other prosecutors.

Boese previously told the Waukesha Freeman that she has handled “at least 170 trials in my 29-year career.” Thurston said he has tried 134 cases during his career.  “I propose to the party we put our numbers on the website,” he said during the debate. “Let’s be transparent about it. If you say you have 170 trials, clearly you have a list. Tell us what your list is.”

Lesli Boese’s Claims About Mike Thurston in Detail

Boese said she analyzed the way that she and Thurston handled cases between January 2023 and April 2024. She said she looked at the number of cases that were amended and dismissed. She said they handled a “similar number of cases.”

According to Boese, “32% of his caseload was amended from felonies to misdemeanors,” referring to Thurston. She also said that “20% of his caseload was dismissed.”

In contrast, Boese said, “2% of my caseload was amended from felonies to misdemeanors. 11% was dismissed.”

Thurston didn’t contest those numbers during the debate.

She added that she was “prosecuting so many more” cases over the past decade, which reduced her time to try other cases. “I have a much higher caseload because I don’t dismiss,” Boese said.

Thurston responded, “We’re talking about drug cases that have informants on video that are cops who are going to appear. My cases are kids who are terrified to come to court, who don’t want to come” or women who are “in a complicated situation and may not want to prosecute any longer.”

Mike Thurston’s Claims About Lesli Boese in Detail

Thurston criticized his colleagues in the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office.

“When I started here in Waukesha in December 2015, I’ll just be blunt with you, we had folks who weren’t always super aggressive,” Thurston said.

“Our drug unit in particular has a massive backlog,” Thurston said, referring to the unit Boese supervises. “My opponent has 103 uncharged cases. Her colleague has a big backlog. You’ve got to get your own cases charged and get them reviewed one way or the other. I will make sure we don’t have backlogs.” Boese did not contest this claim during the debate.

Thurston noted. “I have about five under review cases. I charge them, I get after them and then I try them.”

According to Thurston, “She hasn’t charged cases from 2020, 2021, 2022.” At another point, he referenced 2019.

He said he received law enforcement endorsements, including from the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, because “they know her lack of aggressiveness because she’s talked about retiring for a lot of years. It shows in her numbers.” (He has been endorsed by Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson. Both candidates said they have been endorsed by the Waukesha County Police Chiefs Association.)

“All I bring to you is fire, fire, fire. I’m here to fight my butt off for you,” Thurston added.

Boese responded that drug cases are very complex and take a lot of investigative time because confidential informants must be developed. She disagreed with Thurston that jury trials are the best metric of what “makes a good DA,” saying that leadership and mentorship are key parts of the job.

“I’m not a bureaucrat. I’m a trial attorney,” Thurston responded.

Jessica McBridehttps://www.wisconsinrightnow.com
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 Heavy.com (where she is a contributor reaching millions of readers per month), Patch.com, WTMJ, WISN, WUWM, Wispolitics.com, OnMilwaukee.com, 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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