Skip to comments.Ex-Senator (Chvala, D, WI) to Plead Guilty to 2 Felonies in Capitol Scandal
Posted on 10/25/2005 9:42:55 AM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
(Chvala deal calls for no prison time)
Former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that will leave him convicted of felonies but avoid a prison term.
The deal, according to an agreement filed in court this morning before a scheduled hearing, calls for Chvala to plead guilty to two felony charges, and allows for prosecutors to ask for six months in jail but not for a prison term, the agreement says.
As with all such plea bargains, the judge, in this case Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan, can accept or reject the deal. He was scheduled to hear the two sides at a hearing later today.
The written agreement, in which Chvala signed a statement saying expressly that he was guilty of the two counts, calls for the once-powerful lawmaker to plead to using state employees to do political work and to illegally funneling money to a state Senate campaign.
The two sides agree not to ask for Flanagan to order a pre-sentence investigation in the matter, but Flanagan could do that on his own should he choose to do so.
If Chvala enters his pleas today, as expected, it would cancel a planned five-week trial set to begin with final jury selection next Monday. He faces 19 felony counts of allegedly extorting lobbyists, using state-paid staff to do partisan political campaign work, and setting up so-called independent campaign organizations through which he would funnel money from lobbyists to specific Democratic Senate campaigns.
In the plea agreement he does not concede to any of the extortion charges and continues to deny them.
Still, by reaching the plea deal and signing the agreement, Chvala is admitting guilty to some of the allegations contained in the massive criminal complaint filed in October 2002, allegations which he has continually denied and continually insisted were the result of a political vendetta against him.
Convictions on the felony counts are considered likely to mean Chvala will also lose his license to practice law after a review by the Office of Lawyer Regulation. The written agreement is silent on that matter.
The court session on the plea deal comes a day after lawyers in the case met privately with Judge Flanagan in an attempt to try to convince the judge to listen to what the plea bargain was, and to gain some advance indication of whether he might be prone to accept it.
But the judge was adamant that he would give no advance indication of whether he would approve the plea bargain or accept its terms.
And he said any discussion of the plea deal had to be held in a public courtroom.
"I'm very reluctant to do anything off the record in this case," he said shortly after the outset of the meeting. He later had a transcript made of the meeting and provided it to reporters who asked for it.
Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney David Feiss, who is prosecuting the case along with Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley, then laid out the essence of the problem facing the attorneys. If they had a public hearing and announced their proposed plea bargain, and if the judge rejected it, there would certainly be numerous news accounts of that.
And with jury selection next Monday, the lawyers said it would be extremely difficult to get a fair jury if there were stories of a plea bargain being turned down by a judge.
But Flanagan said that could be handled in another way, by merely postponing the trial to a later date.
Attorney James Olson, who represents Chvala, said the lawyers wanted some indication to know "if what we are doing is within the grounds of reasonableness."
"What you want quite understandably is an advance, some sort of advance notice of what is likely to happen, and I don't think I can give you that," Flanagan responded.
Feiss tried again, the transcript shows, asking for guidance on whether the judge would not indicate whether "the parameters that we have reached" were within "the realm of reasonableness" in the judge's mind. After a 10-minute recess Flanagan still said no to the idea.
It became apparent during the discussion that a part of the plea bargain was that many of the 19 counts against Chvala would be dropped and Feiss wanted to know if Flanagan had a problem with that.
Flanagan pointed out that it is his general practice to honor requests by prosecutors to drop charges, but he still was adamant he would not be put in the position of giving advance notice of approving whatever deal for a sentence the two sides had worked out.
"I can't possibly give you an advance sense of what would be a reasonable parameter for sentencing," he said. "I have done this consistently. If I am presented with a plea arrangement that I think does not meet reasonable parameters, I certainly will permit the defendant to withdraw any plea," the judge said.
He added that once the plea deal was put in front of him, in a public setting, he would make that decision. "If I see something that really looks completely improper, and if that resulted in a set over (of the trial date), then so be it," the judge said.
"But I think anything of this nature I think should be with notice and in the courtroom," he added. "I certainly can't do it off the record, and I don't think I can do it here without any advance warning to the public that his sort of thing is being considered."
After some discussion on how jury selection was being handled, the parties left and later informed Flanagan that they wanted to set a plea hearing for today, apparently willing to take their chances that he would approve the deal.
Chvala will become the second prominent former state lawmaker to plead guilty in the long Capitol corruption scandal. Former Sen. Brian Burke, D-Milwaukee, once co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, entered guilty pleas to a felony and misdemeanor earlier this month and faces sentencing on Nov. 30, with the prosecution agreeing to ask for no more than six months behind bars.
Still to come are cases against prominent members of the Republican majority in the Assembly, including former Speaker Scott Jensen of the town of Brookfield, former Majority Leader Steve Foti of Oconomowoc, former Assistant Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig of Racine and former GOP fundraiser Sherry Schultz.
They are scheduled for trial in February.
Good Afternoon, Wisconsin Conservative Politics Ping List Members. :)
If you or I were facing these charges, what do you the chances would be of zero prison time?
Ah .. I see the "culture of corruption" in the democrat party marches on.
Somebody better let Pelosi know!
Also, if I ever get charged for a felony I'm going to point out that I should receive equal justice meted out to politicians....of course they won't allow it because the only crime I'm likely to get charged with is a hate crime...just as soon as they declare Christianity illegal for promoting hate crimes based upon the Bible. It doesn't matter that there isn't a single person on the earth that I hate.
Climate of Corruption BUMP.
But, in the final graph, they get in the word *Republican* AND *GOP*.
When is Doyle's turn?
Excellent summary, Steveegg!
Would be better if I proofread it :-)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.