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Wisconsin’s governor received a complaint Monday seeking the removal of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm after his office recommended $1,000 bail for a man who authorities say later drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in a nearby county, killing six people.
A group of people who say they are Milwaukee County taxpayers filed the complaint Friday asking Evers to remove Chisholm to prevent similarly low bail recommendations in future cases involving violent offenders such as suspected car killer Darrell Brooks.
The governor’s office confirmed it received the complaint Monday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
‘The devastation resulting from Chisholm’s dereliction of duty to protect the public has reached outside the borders of Milwaukee County,’ the complaint says.
It was signed by Orville Seymer and six people who did not list their addresses or return phone calls from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Seymer has long been affiliated with a local group called Citizens for Responsible Government that formed in the wake of a 2002 Milwaukee County public pension scandal.
Wisconsin residents are demanding that Governor Tony Evers remove Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm (left) from his post after his office recommended $1,000 bail for Darrell Brooks (right)
Democratic Governor Tony Evers has not yet had a chance to review the complaint, a spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Chisholm, who is also a Democrat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under state law, a governor may remove an elected district attorney for ‘inefficiency, neglect of duty, official misconduct, or malfeasance in office.’
Brooks is being held on a $5million bail for the six homicide charges he faces in the November 21 parade deaths in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb that is in Waukesha County.
Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper has also said additional charges are likely. No possible motive has been given.
He was released on bail just days earlier after allegedly running over the mother of his child with his SUV.
Chisholm has been under intense criticism for the bail recommendation, having previously spoken of his desire to reduce jail populations, and even conceded that the policy would likely result in deaths
Chisholm has called it ‘inappropriately low’ given the circumstances of the crimes Brooks was facing and his prior history.
Brooks is being held on a $5million bail for the six homicide charges he faces in the November 21 parade deaths in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb that is in Waukesha County
Police allege that Brooks was behind the wheel of the red SUV that plowed into parade-goers in Waukesha on November 21
Earlier this year, Evers launched an investigation into Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King, also a Democrat, over alleged sexual harassment in the workplace after receiving a complaint from King´s former colleagues.
Chisholm said Brooks’ low bail amount was the result of ‘human error’ by an overworked rookie prosecutor who was previously identified as Michelle Grasso (above)
King resigned before the investigation concluded.
Earlier this month, Chisholm blamed a rookie prosecutor in his office for freeing Brooks. He didn’t name her, but she was previously identified as Michelle Grasso.
Chisholm said Grasso, who set the $1,000 bond Brooks was freed on two weeks prior to the parade massacre, had looked at his most recently posted bail of $500 and decided to double it.
He claimed she didn’t have risk management computer data available to her that could have kept Brooks behind bars.
‘You had a young (assistant district attorney) trying to do the very best she could under really difficult circumstances and she made a mistake,’ Chisholm said during a Milwaukee County Board Judiciary and Public Safety Committee hearing.
The district attorney has been scrutinized over the low hit-skip bail amount since Brooks was arrested and charged in the parade incident.
‘That is a decision on its face … that I believe was inappropriately low given the context of what we knew about the defendant,’ Chisholm said.
‘That’s human error. It set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a tragedy. Again, I’m not trying to lessen our responsibility for that, but that’s it.’
Brooks (pictured in Waukesha County Court on Nov. 23) faces six counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the Waukesha parade incident, with additional charges likely. No possible motive has been given
Chisholm noted that Grasso did not have access to the defendant’s pretrial risk assessment that looks at several factors, including prior convictions, when she made the decision to set Brooks’ bail because it had not yet been uploaded into the system, CNN reported.
The DA, who has a history of trying to reduce incarceration and the number of suspects freed on cash bail said he was angry and ‘extraordinarily saddened by the circumstances that have impacted so many people’ in Milwaukee County and reiterated that higher cash bail should have been recommended for Brooks. Grasso’s supervisor, Carole Manchester, has also been slammed over the low bail amount.
‘I put the finger on myself and that’s my obligation, that’s my responsibility,’ Chisholm said, adding that the risk assessment system was in place when Brooks was released.
‘There was a public safety assessment that was done that characterized this situation as a high-risk situation. Our default position in this case because of the laws in Wisconsin is that we recommend higher amounts of cash,’ he said, explaining the protocol that ‘should have been followed.’
Court records show Brooks was charged with endangerment in Milwaukee County in July 2020 after he allegedly fired his gun at his nephew.
He was set to stand trial in February but Chisholm’s office had to push the proceeding back as it struggled with a backlog of cases due to pandemic-induced courtroom closures.
The Christmas parade began on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 4pm, with participants starting at Main St. and Whiterock Ave. It was always intended to be a short parade, ending half a mile away at the northeast corner of Cutler Park. At 4.39pm, the red SUV is filmed speeding down Main Street. It smashed into the crowd, and sent bodies flying, before carrying on down towards the end of the parade, where the car broke through barriers. The SUV was found less than five blocks away and the driver was taken into custody but it’s unclear exactly where
Since prosecutors couldn’t provide him with a speedy trial, they reduced his bail from $7,500 to $500. He posted that in March.
On Nov. 5, weeks before the parade, he was charged with endangerment again, this time for allegedly running over the mother of his child with his SUV.
Brooks was assessed as a high risk to reoffend, but the prosecutor who handled his initial appearance still sought the $1,000 cash bail. He posted it on Nov. 19.
Chisholm’s office has taken heat for setting bail the low bail, with critics saying he essentially enabled Brooks to attack the parade.
Chisholm and the county’s chief judge, Mary Triggiano, also tried painting a picture of a Milwaukee County court system that has been limping along since the pandemic struck.
Triggiano noted that the county is dealing with a backlog of 1,600 felony cases and 3,100 misdemeanor cases. Chisholm said the jail has a capacity of 920 inmates and is currently housing about 890, including 175 awaiting trial in homicide cases and 100 awaiting trial for first-degree sexual assault alone.
‘In this particular case, the ADA didn’t make a decision just in a vacuum with lots and lots of time to assess it,’ Chisholm said.
‘It doesn’t excuse it, but it puts it into context when you’re dealing with high volume triage, trying to sort what the most serious offense is, just trying to get the case in the system and move on to the next one, sometimes errors are going to occur.’
He added: ‘I want to make it clear that there are explanations for what happened. There are no excuses.’
Milwaukee County Judicial Court Commissioner Cedric Cornwall was also criticized for approving the low bail amount.
Cornwall approved the low bond for Brooks during his arraignment for the alleged hit-and-run, despite the fact that he’s been bailed twice this year and has a lengthy criminal history stretching back to 1999.
Cornwall, who has served as commissioner since 2005, has a history of low bonds, Fox News reported.
On the same day he set the $1,000 bond for Brooks, he also set bail at $500 for a man accused of strangulation, battery and domestic violence. The day before he set bail at $1,000 for a woman charged with three felonies, including child abuse.
In 2006, the commissioner set bail at $100,00 for a foreign exchange student accused of a sex crime. Cornwall didn’t require the man to surrender his passport and he fled to China where he was later arrested on and unrelated charged and extradited back to the United States.
Similarly, Chisholm is known for his push to end cash bail, saying it’s not fair to poor defendants.
He wants to implement a new system in which only violent offenders are jailed until trial. That’s left him walking a fine line between angry residents who hold him at least partly responsible for the carnage at the parade and progressives looking to reduce incarceration rates.
The district attorney is also being criticized for a comment he made to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 2007, arguing the state’s risk assessment system could not ‘perfectly predict’ who might commit violence.
‘Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into a treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody? You bet,’ he said at the time.
He also argued in favor of programs that reduce recidivism, such as alternatives to incarceration.
In Wisconsin, defendants are screened with a pretrial risk assessment that looks at several factors, including their prior convictions, to evaluate the risk of them failing to appear in court or their likelihood to commit another crime.
Judges and court commissioners are then given this risk score, along with recommendations from the defense and prosecution, to aid in setting bond and release conditions.
Source: Daily Mail