Vince Biskupic’s Shady ‘Justice For Sale’ Deals & The Oneida Business Committe’s Employment of Biskupic Legal Group As Counsel for Oneida Housing Authority Audit Matters [UPDATE 2]

UPDATE: Predictably, the BC hired Attorney Vince Biskupic as counsel for Oneida Housing Authority audit matters despite his record of unjustly letting some people buy their way out of criminal charges.

UPDATE 2: Here is some information from a draft copy of the meeting minutes:

1. Approve attorney contract with Biskupic Legal Group as counsel for Oneida Housing Authority (OHA) audit matters

Sponsor: Ed Delgado

Motion by David Jordan to approve the attorney contract with Biskupic Legal Group for Oneida Housing Authority (OHA) audit matters with funds coming from the Litigation Fund and to have the attorney report directly to the Interim Audit Director and the Interim Audit Director reports directly to the Audit Committee, seconded by Vince DelaRosa. Motion carried with two abstentions:

Ayes: Vince DelaRosa, Patty Hoeft, David Jordan, Paul Ninham

Abstained: Tina Danforth, Greg Matson

Not present: Melinda J. Danforth, Brandon Stevens

For the record: Tina Danforth stated she abstained due to the lack of reporting the Housing concerns to the OBC. The OBC is engaging legal counsel using litigation funds from the law office and the OBC needs to be part of monitoring the fund and reports generated by Biskupic.

Oneida Eye was suprised to learn that Council member DelaRosa, having been made aware of the information below, still voted to approve Atty. Buskipic’s contract. The entire draft of meeting minutes is worth reading.


The BC is scheduled to have a Special Meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Monday:

1. Approve attorney Biskupic Legal Group as counsel for Oneida Housing Authority (OHA) audit matters

2. Approve attorney contract with Whyte, Hirschboek, Dudek SC as counsel for Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC)

3. Approve the amendment to October 2012 Promissory Note to Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC)

Oneida Eye hasn’t seen the amendment to the BC’s October 2012 Promissory Note to OSGC which was presumably regarding the $750,000 which the BC ‘loaned’ to OSGC, some of which was used to pay legal fees to lawfirm Godfrey & Kahn for OSGC’s failed lawsuit against the City of Green Bay and their appeal of Brown County Judge Marc A. Hammer’s January 9, 2013 decision against OSGC, but Oneida Eye presumes that the amendment may have to do with allocating whatever remaining funds are related to that Promissory Note towards the hiring of the lawfirm of Whyte, Hirschboek, Dudek going forward.

The BC’s approval of Biskupic Legal Group (which appears to be little more than former Outagamie County District Attorney Vince R. Biskupic) as counsel for OHA audit matters seems odd.

Here’s some background on Attorney Vince Biskupic which includes the following as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal:

As investigators closed in on him, Appleton resident Floyd Banks tipped the scales of justice in his favor.

He pulled out his checkbook.

By signing a secret agreement to “donate” $5,000 to police and court programs “as a sign of remorse,” Banks, a machinist, bought his way out of being charged with a felony in 1996, according to public documents obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal. Eight others involved in the case were charged with felony perjury and convicted of felony and misdemeanor offenses for helping an Appleton man conceal $75,000 in lottery winnings in a divorce case.

The young prosecutor who approved that deal with Banks: Vince Biskupic, then Outagamie County district attorney, who last year narrowly lost a race to become attorney general of Wisconsin and still is coveted by Republican strategists as a potential candidate for high office.

The Banks case was among at least 13 in which Biskupic permitted people to avoid criminal charges after they paid from $500 to $8,000 in secret deals that raise legal and ethical concerns about Biskupic’s practices, a State Journal investigation shows.

During his eight years as Outagamie County’s top prosecutor, Biskupic raised at least $37,000 from individuals in uncharged deals, the newspaper found.

    •  Poor people and their attorneys weren’t informed that such deals existed. Included in the group paying money in exchange for avoiding charges were two dentists, two corporate executives, a contractor and a student at an expensive private college.
    • By making payments ranging from $500 to $8,000, and sometimes agreeing to other terms such as counseling or cooperating with investigators, the people signing Biskupic’s deals avoided charges including criminal damage to property, drug dealing, making obscene telephone calls, criminal perjury, forgery and patronizing prostitutes.
    • Two people contend they were innocent and felt pressured to sign the agreements to protect their reputations. One said he was “shaken down” by Biskupic. Spot checks with prosecutors in a third of Wisconsin’s 72 counties indicate that more than half use uncharged agreements.
    • Of the 16 prosecutors who reported using such deals, some said they collected no money; others said they collected roughly $50 to $200, not the thousands of dollars that Biskupic exacted from some individuals. The prosecutors said such agreements represented a tiny part – probably less than 1 percent – of the cases they handle and the offenses included domestic violence, theft and disorderly conduct.

It’s legal for Wisconsin prosecutors to make deals that permit people to avoid facing criminal charges. The law leaves it up to prosecutors, elected officials who by tradition are accorded extraordinary discretion, to decide what they’d like to include in those deals – including the size of any payments and where they should go.

Former Supreme Court Justice Geske and Walter Dickey, a UW-Madison law professor who has served on three state sentencing-reform projects since the 1980s, called on the Legislature to ban prosecutors from soliciting large sums of money from uncharged people, when the money is going to a third party rather than compensating the victim of the crime.

Geske, now a Marquette University law professor, said she had never heard of the practice of striking large financial deals with uncharged individuals although she’s taught sentencing courses for judges locally and nationally for 15 years.

Dickey said that because prosecutors are afforded great latitude in dispensing justice, their deals with uncharged people should be open to public scrutiny to ensure the power is used responsibly.

Unless the law is changed, Dickey said, innocent people will sign the agreements to avoid the public shame of being charged, guilty people will escape prosecution by paying money, poor people will be denied access to part of the justice system, and judges will be denied an opportunity to ensure that the agreements are appropriate.

Defense attorneys and public defenders around the state said they hadn’t heard of prosecutors besides Biskupic taking in large donations from uncharged individuals. No one knows exactly how many people are involved, or how much they’re paying, because there is no public accounting of the deals.

Waring Fincke, president of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Biskupic had a statewide reputation for exacting large payments in exchange for agreeing not to file charges. Other district attorneys, Fincke said, typically would push for no more than $200 in such cases, and the money frequently would go to compensate victims.

Fincke said it was widely believed by defense attorneys that lawyers with close connections to Biskupic were able to obtain extra-friendly settlements to avoid the filing of charges. The West Bend attorney declined to identify the attorneys, saying, “If you were looking to seek to buy your way out of a piece of litigation, then you knew who to call.”

Ethics Board is investigating

Biskupic’s use of his office fund is being investigated by the state Ethics Board, which became interested in it last fall after questions were raised by journalists and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Ethics Board executive director Roth Judd said his agency is investigating whether Biskupic violated the state law that prohibits public officials, including district attorneys, from using their positions to provide substantial benefits to organization with which they’re associated.

Biskupic, according to his own statements, had sole control over the money that flowed into and out of his calendar fund, which he closed last November.

“Whether the facts will vindicate Mr. Biskupic or lead to a different conclusion, I cannot say today,” Judd said. “In any event, the Ethics Board expects to make a public accounting of the pertinent facts and a statement about how or whether Wisconsin’s ethics code applies to those facts.”

Prosecutors’ opinions vary

District attorneys’ deals with uncharged individuals are a variation of “deferred prosecution agreements,” a widely used technique that permits defendants who meet certain conditions to avert a conviction. In traditional deferred prosecutions, defendants plead guilty or no contest to a charge first, then charges are reduced or dismissed and punishment withheld if defendants comply with the terms of the agreement. In many cases, the defendant avoids being convicted of the charge.

But unlike regular deferred prosecutions, deals with uncharged individuals:

    • Aren’t filed in court.
    • Aren’t reviewed or approved by judges.
    • Aren’t known to the public.

Biskupic’s deals with uncharged individuals were printed on a title page implying they were official Outagamie County Circuit Court documents, although the papers were kept in the prosecutor’s office and never were filed in court. They listed the state of Wisconsin as plaintiff and the individual as defendant – when actually there were no charges filed so there was neither a plaintiff nor a defendant.

The agreements contained little or no information about the alleged offense. In contrast, standard cases include detailed descriptions of the alleged wrongdoing, including when and where it happened and who was involved.

David Wambach, Jefferson County’s Republican district attorney and president of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, is among the district attorneys using pre-charging agreements. He believes the practice will grow as the state’s financial condition worsens because it reduces the costs of administering justice. Such deals make sense, Wambach said, for first-time offenders who hope to turn their lives around and who deserve a chance to remain felony-free.

Tom McAdams, assistant district attorney in charge of misdemeanor prosecutions in Milwaukee County, said uncharged deals are used very rarely in the state’s largest county. McAdams said he’s never heard of them involving more than about $200, and the payments usually go to victims rather than the district attorney’s office or other groups.

Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, a Democrat, said he wouldn’t offer uncharged deals in exchange for money, and he’s particularly troubled by doing so outside of the courtroom.

“Requiring potential defendants to pay money to a third party of the prosecutor’s choosing in order to avoid criminal prosecution is justice for sale, and under certain circumstances, it looks like extortion,” Blanchard said.

Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski, a Republican, said his office has signed deals with a small number of people who avoided charges, but none of the agreements involved substantial amounts of money to third parties. “The problem there is… you’re kind of buying off your prosecution,” Zakowski said.

Sauk County District Attorney Pat Barrett, a Democrat, said she opposes uncharged deals because they jeopardize the rights of victims to have a say in the punishment. Also, if a person reneged on a deal, it could be difficult to reconstruct a case a year or two after the offense, she said.

Other prosecutors said they avoid deals with uncharged individuals because they simply lack the staff to monitor whether people are complying with the agreements.

The chairman of the Assembly judiciary committee said he plans to ask Biskupic about his dealings with uncharged individuals. But Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, said the Legislature should “go slow” in seeking to limit prosecutors because of the state’s historic separation of powers between branches of government.

The chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire, declined to comment on Biskupic’s practices.

Attorney General Lautenschlager, a Democrat and the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin who defeated Biskupic in the election last fall, said requiring large donations in exchange for more lenient treatment “is bad in terms of the public’s perception of justice – that people with money have the ability to buy their way out of jail – even if technically they (agreements) fall within the confines of the law.”

Joshua Marquis, a National District Attorneys Association board member from the state of Oregon, agreed. He called tactics such as those used by Biskupic “inherently corrosive to people’s confidence in the justice system.

“It creates a two-tier system of justice – those with money and those without.”

The system in Biskupic’s office was so secretive that Biskupic’s top deputy didn’t know what criteria were used in offering the deals, and the longtime head of the state public defender’s office in Appleton, which represents poor people, only last fall learned that some well-to-do individuals had bought their way out of court while his clients faced felony charges.

Carrie Schneider, who was Biskupic’s handpicked deputy for two years before being elected district attorney in November, said she’s suspending the practice of offering uncharged deferred prosecution agreements until she learns more about them. Asked to comment on Biskupic’s uncharged deals, Schneider, a Republican, said she hasn’t examined them and doesn’t intend to. (see Oneida Eye’s note below)

Four assistant district attorneys who worked under Biskupic – including Mitch Metropulos, the Democratic candidate who ran unsuccessfully against Schneider in 2002 – said they oppose such uncharged deals, which Biskupic kept under wraps, even around the office.

Metropulos, who now works as an assistant district attorney in Winnebago County, echoed the sentiments of the other three former assistant district attorneys who worked under Biskupic: “I have a real problem with the practice. I think it’s a real shady way to practice justice.

Money to Biskupic’s office

Although Biskupic often used the deals to raise money for worthy causes, in several cases, he used them to boost the bottom line of his own office. In two cases, potential defendants agreed to pay $1,100 each for interns in Biskupic’s office. The agreements allowed the two to avoid charges of soliciting a prostitute stemming from a secret John Doe investigation that Biskupic had run.

In prosecuting the perjury cases against Appleton machinist Floyd Banks and the others, Biskupic’s aim was to raise money for a van for his investigator, Steve Malchow, according to Mike Balskus, a former assistant district attorney under Biskupic. Only one of the nine people under investigation Banks – accepted the $5,000 deal, said Balskus, who handled the prosecution.

“I was instructed to make an offer to all of these guys: If you come in and pay five grand … there would be no charges,” said Balskus, now an assistant district attorney in neighboring Winnebago County.

In that prosecution, eight people were charged with felonies for lying in a divorce case involving William and Estelle Moes of Appleton. Banks was not charged.

Seven, including William Moes, were convicted of felonies including perjury and false swearing, thereby losing the right to vote and to own a gun. The eighth was convicted of misdemeanor false swearing. The defendants received sentences ranging from probation to six months in jail.

Banks and his Appleton attorney, Michael Rudolph, declined to talk about the agreement. Joseph Troy, the Outagamie County circuit judge who asked Biskupic to investigate whether Banks and the others committed perjury, said he was unaware any agreement had been struck with Banks to avoid prosecution.

Biskupic initially directed that the money be sent to the vehicle fund of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department. Later, Biskupic changed the agreement to benefit four groups, including an anti-gang organization run by the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Brad Gehring, whose department got $2,000 in the deal, was surprised to learn the payment wasn’t court-ordered.


Note: Carrie ‘see-no-evil-when-it-comes-to-Biskupic’ Schneider is currently the District Attorney for Outagamie County.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation wants to publicly reprimand Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider, saying she didn’t disclose a plea offer made to a witness and allowed the witness to lie under oath about it at trial.

Is Atty. Vince Biskupic’s shady ‘justice-for-sale’ approach – which disadvantages the poor and keeps the public in the dark about crimes committed – actually what the Oneida Business Committee supports regarding Oneida Housing Authority’s audit?

Apparently we’ll find out after their Executive Session at 1:30 p.m. on Monday February 3, 2014.


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