On the Timothy Russell plea deal and sentence. Judge Hansher: “I have some questions here”

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A brief dispatch I’m filing from a bench outside the Milwaukee County courthouse which will be fleshed out in a few hours
with a description of the courtroom scene and more:

Today prosecutor Bruce Landgraf recommended a sentence for former Scott Walker aide Timothy Russell and also offered up a plea deal. Landgraf recommended a sentence of 30 months of initial confinement and 30 months of supervision following that for 1 felony count of embezzlement of over $10,000 (Russell was initially charged with three counts of theft in January of 2012). Landgraf said the sentence is intended to be the “full settlement” of all charges in Russell’s criminal complaint.  Prosecution also requested that he pay restitution of $28,000.

Judge David A. Hansher recited a litany of clarifying questions to Russell to make sure he realized he will lose the right to vote while carrying out his punishment and he waives rights to a jury trial and similar.

The only thing the judge offered outside of the boilerplate questions he was required to ask: he requires a pre-sentencing investigation.
“I have some questions here.  There are some things I’m not sure about.”

Remember that the Kelly Rindfleisch pre-sentencing hearing is what divulged numerous details that implicated Scott Walker directly in the illegal comingling of county employee and campaign worker time and activity — or certainly that’s what it looked like given that Scott Walker himself was included on the damning emails revealed by Landgraf. Thus the judge’s questions and interest in further investigation assure us that there will be more revelations and implications to come.

Russell’s bail remains the same.

Good news (for now). Wisconsin tech school students can use school ID to vote and all schools can sticker IDs

The good news is that the Government Accountability Board decided unanimously to reverse its previous course and allow students of technical schools in Wisconsin to use student IDs as voter IDs. GAB also voted to stay with their previous decision to allow stickers to be used on IDs to indicate that they are current.

The bad news is that things could change for the roughly 400,000 students in a Wisconsin 2 or 4 year school. The decisions this body made are possibly reversed by the JCRAR or Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. More on that at the end of this post.

Update 8:46pm: Senator Leah Vukmir has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to order the Government Accountability Board to put its policy on student IDs into a rule format so that her committee can then suspend it. More here at “Wisconsin GOP pissed at GAB: Tuesday Rules Hearing Called by Vukmir to Reverse Decision on Voter ID”.

G.A.B. reversed course on tech school IDs because they realized they had violated state statute in disallowing their use in voting. Judge Cane made the argument that the tech schools pass 3 tests set forth for school IDs in Wisconsin’s new voting ID law. He said they fall under the definition of universities, the definition of colleges, and that of non-profit institutions.

I attended the bulk of the GAB’s meeting this morning, catching some on WisEye at home and a couple of hours before lunch at the Capitol. A contingent of students were there, about half wearing blue Madison College T-shirts and the other half wearing suits or dress wear. Another set of citizens also attended including a contingent of women from Waukesha I’m getting accustomed to seeing at the Capitol.

Below is some of their testimony:

Director of State Relations Don Nelson of UW-Madison gave information on the research he has been doing to be ready to bring student ID’s into compliance with new voter law such as ensuring that they have a 2 year expiration instead of the 5 year expiration they currently have. He said UW is looking at 2 options: altering all cards issued or a less expensive option of issuing a cheaper 2nd ID that is suitable for voting. He said the 1 card solution will run about $5.00 per card while the 2 card solution runs about $1.00 per card. He said UW Madison was not looking seriously at stickering IDs since it interferes with swiping the card [UW Madison’s ID is also used as a payment tool].

Nelson said UW Madison is starting to look into developing an ID that is compliant with all other schools. It’s fairly common now for students to get beginning credits for a 4 year degree from a cheaper local community college and then transfer them in.

The proposal of a consistent school I.D. across all schools in Wisconsin was made in testimony by Waukesha’s David Ryan. I caught up with him later to see how he felt about stickering. He was not happy. He said that legislators who came up with the voter I.D. bill were not knowledgeable enough about the schools of Wisconsin and weren’t thinking of students having 2 IDs at their disposal when they transfer schools. He said he supports the voter I.D. law [I assumed so, but asked to verify] adding “This is the first state I’ve lived in that did not require an I.D. to vote.”

Rose Clearmont testified about her difficulty in getting her Driver’s License renewed to explain why demanding that students have a valid non-school I.D. is not workable. She lives in Sun Prairie and goes to school at Madison College for accounting training as well as at an online school. She recently needed to get a current driver’s license and had to first go to Walworth County where she was adopted to get a birth certificate which cost around $20. That was a 1/2 day’s time for her. She said following she had to spend 4 hours in a DMV to get the driver’s license. When I asked her questions in the hallway, she said that she at first thought that the G.A.B. was discriminating against 2 year schools in Wisconsin but that it appeared that they simply made a mistake in their judgement. She said she is normally not so politically involved, but she was elected to the Madison College Student Senate in October and is suddenly very involved.

I asked Jennifer Johnson, President of Madison College’s Student Senate for 3 years, if getting students to polls or ensuring they were registered to vote was a key mission of her group in the 2010 midterms. She said “no” but that now that the voter ID law was being implemented they would do what they could to work with any group getting information out to students about the changes. It’s clear from this Clarion post, Jennifer has been working to get clarity on IDs for Madison College since July of 2011.

Jayme Montgomery of the League of Young Voters in Milwaukee gave GAB both information about her group’s outreach work and 3 requests: 1-Get information about voter ID clarified by the end of the month. 2-Create a strong brand around voter ID. [Her group is using a twitter hashtag #readysetvote] and 3-Help the DMVs achieve transparency. She said there is confusion at the DMV if people ask for the ID and added that “we are working to make sure all have a chance to participate”. I believe she was referring to the DMV’s don’t tell unless they ask policy which requires that staff not inform the public that a photo ID for voting is free unless the customer specifically asks for the a photo ID for voting AND states that he or she has a financial hardship.

I doubt that G.A.B. will do anything so proactive as to assist Wisconsin voters in “branding”. Their dialog revolved around adhering to the voter I.D. statute that was handed to them, avoiding litigation, and making sure that the voting I.D. solution implemented was affordable for colleges.

Bryan Bliss made a case in testimony against requiring notarizing recall sheets and called their use an actual step backwards, saying Wisconsin did away with the practice because notaries did not understand how to conduct the oathe and wound up covering for fraudulent signatures. Bliss also called for use of email-able petitions with modern double checks on fields in the forms to add verification of data. “The Wisconsin constitution says that laws can only be made to facilitate recalls, not to restrict or inhibit them,” said Bliss. Requiring petitions be notarized also “counts as a recall tax. There are statutory fees associated with notarizing petitions.”

A final note: I did not count how many times a judge repeated some variation on this question, “Will your tech school credits transfer to a university?” But I wish I had. The fact that the credits at a 2 year school in Wisconsin transfer to a 4 year school was either quite surprising to this body or they were trying to pound this point for the public. The people on the G.A.B. panel are judges, all look to be above 50-years-old, and they appear well appointed financially. I wondered if today’s testimony is the first time they’ve really learned about technical schools from the Wisconsinites who attend them. When Madison College student Rose said to them, “Do you folks have 4 hours out of your day to wait in the DMV?” I thought, “Yes they do. But you do not.”

The next meeting of JCRAR is 10AM tomorrow.

The next meeting of the G.A.B. is December 13th.

Why I Fear JCRAR Could Tweak or Reverse This:

I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think JCRAR would reverse the direction of G.A.B.’s decision given what it recently did to Van Hollen. JCRAR recently eliminated a 4 hour training requirement that A.G.Van Hollen wanted on conceal carry permits. Technically it is Pam Galloway who led the charge to reverse that but in JCRAR but my gut says it was the NRA who called the shots. From NRA’s site: “Unfortunately, DOJ has chosen to overstep its authority by imposing conditions on prospective concealed weapons license applicants that the legislature never adopted or intended”.

The reversal of all other democratic process related to statues in Wisconsin was made possible by a bill passed in June: Wisconsin Act 21. It is the most lethal of all of the legislation passed by Walker’s Republican-domnated legislature. It hands Walker the power to effectively reverse all work done by other bodies on state statutes.

I called JCRAR member Rep. Kessler’s office to learn if the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules will take up the rule on voter ID and was told that if they do, and they might, it would not be for some time since Kevin Kennedy said it would take a long time to create an impact statement around it.

From dane101:
After recessing for a lunch break the GAB also voted to conduct upcoming recall elections in observance of pre-Act 23 legislative districts, going against recent efforts by Republican legislators to move up the implementation date of the redistricting bill.

Note: Rebecca Kemble of the Progressive has kept a close watch on JCRAR.

Wisconsin Republicans Rush Redistricting. The people call it “Fitzmandering”.

Fitzmandering is what my pal on twitter @paellacook called gerrymandering in Wisconsin today. Clever, eh? Here are a few Fitzmandering resources. The process of redistricting our state is expected to be sped through by the GOP and completed before summer recall elections are done. Or in other words, the Wisco authoritarian party is doing its level best to hold onto power in all ways legal, and if it ain’t legal, they’ll make it so.

Compelling video of Arthur speaking today at a hearing on redistricting in Wisconsin.

Today Peter Barca did his first post at Daily Kos:
Winning the Redistricting Battle in Wisconsin

It’s a good scolding in the Barca tradition we know and love. Here’s a tidbit on Ryan’s district: “The Republicans’ congressional maps show that they know that Wisconsinites have rejected the GOP-plan led by Congressman Paul Ryan Continue reading

The Public Stands Their Ground. A “Filibuster” of Testimony Continues Until 3AM Wednesday in Wisconsin

Update: Just got word that the informal portion of this hearing continues now-11:22AM Wednesday. Which means Democratic legislators are still listening to constituents in a marathon that is over 24 hours long.

Right now, 1:00AM Central Standard Time, a hearing room in Wisconsin’s Capitol Building remains packed and testimony rolls on. [I’m watching online: http://www.wiseye.org/] This despite the fact that the Joint Finance Committee first ejected 100 of those people from the room at 10PM.

Those testifying are almost uniformly against a “budget reform bill” unveiled by Governor Scott Walker Friday the 11th.

The committee ejected 100 people from the room to join 100’s more waiting for their turn just outside of the marble room. At that point, the group of primarily college students began chanting and yelling and succeeding in making the committee feel quite uncomfortable. Footage of this intense moment is below and is from @news3David, David Douglas of Channel 3.

I’ve been following tweets on this topic like my cat with a laser from the comfort of my couch. It’s a lot cushier than the floor and sleeping bags that some students are sleeping on in the Capitol rotunda right now while they wait their turn to speak.

One of those testifying called this the “public’s filibuster”.

Co-Chair Representative Robin Vos of Rochester tried to cut off testimony, declaring that no additional speakers would be allowed over the 300 or so that had already signed up. However Representative Jennifer Shilling said she would stay until sun-up and demanded she hear more testimony.

I am quite sure that Senator Lena Taylor, Democrat, of Milwaukee pushed hard for the committee to continue.

Around 4PM she told an evening crowd of 2,000 (dwindled down from over 10,000) that it was imperative that they speak, not just comment. She compared it to that moment in a wedding when you are asked to speak now or forever hold your peace.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If Republicans who run the committee cut off debate, minority Democrats plan to keep the hearing going, said Mike Browne, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona). That could mean the hearing will stretch well into Wednesday. ”

One of my friends complained that “only” about 1,500 University of Wisconsin students rallied at the Capitol on Monday to advocate for the teachers assistant union and a professional union. Clearly the UW students are earning major citizen street cred this evening.

I fear some stubborn students could still be dragged out in their own sleeping bags. But this is a simple job for on-duty police and Capitol security. Certainly the Governor won’t call out the National Guard.

However those students leave our Capitol, they are now heroes of this city. May their reusable beer mugs and/or herbal tea decanters remain full to brimming for the duration of the semester.

Events on deck in Madison:

3AM Post-Hearing Hearing in the Rotunda

Co-Chair Robin Vos went home at 3AM at which time the committee agreed to end their hearing. A reporter from WKOW tweeted that Vos mentioned he would reconvene the executive committee at 12PM noon Wednesday February 16.

Ryan Rainey stayed up tweeting and writing about a 2nd informal hearing conducted with UW students & others who did not have a chance to speak in the formal hearing:  Democrats Convene Informal Committee to Hear Testimony.