April 6, 2013 by Jason Huberty
After a two-month lull, the Walker Administration’s crackdown on dissent in the Wisconsin State Capitol has kicked back into high gear.
On Thursday April 4th, six Capitol Police officers marched down the stairs of the State Street entrance to the Capitol and handed out nine long-form complaints to three participants of the Solidarity Sing Along. One person refused to accept his complaint.
The following day three more people went to the Capitol to pick up their own long-form complaints after being tipped off by information posted to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program database.
In all, fifteen new complaints detailing thirty alleged violations of the Wisconsin Administrative Code were issued retroactively to six people for conduct occurring on the eighteen days between February 4 and March 13, 2013.
The crackdown began when newly-hired Capitol Police Chief David Erwin started issuing citations against participants of the Solidarity Sing Along on August 11, 2012. Since then, 146 citations have been issued to thirty-six people.
While previous citations were issued by the Capitol Police, the new long-form complaints were issued from the office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DoJ).
They are signed on behalf of Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen by the same Assistant Attorneys General currently prosecuting over 60 cases in Dane County Court: Winn Collins, Eric DeFort, and Jeffrey M. Gabrysiak.
The new long-form complaints differ from previous citations in several ways.
While past citations came with civil forfeitures of $200.50 or $263.50, the new citations prescribe forfeitures of up to $500, plus court costs and fees and, “the costs and disbursements of this action.”
Previous citations were issued for a single count, but several of the the new long-form complaints include multiple counts from several days.
Further, several complaints cross-reference charges for multiple individuals from a single day.
This escalation of enforcement by the DOJ comes on the heels of multiple defeats in Dane County Court. To date, nearly seventy citations have been dismissed. Not a single citation has been successfully prosecuted.
WCMC obtained copies of two long-form complaints. We have removed identifying information from the complaints including the defendants’ last names.
The fifteen new long-form complaints were issued to six individuals: Irving S., Ron E., Brian S., Brandon B., Greg K., and Bart M. All have previously received citations and are current targets of DOJ prosecution in Dane County Court.
Irving S. alone received half of the thirty total counts, while the other five people made up the other half: Ron E. (5), Brandon B. (4), Greg K. (3), Bart M. (2), and Brian S. (1).
Twenty-eight of the counts were for violating the Administrative Code under section 2.14(2)(v) “conducting a picket, rally, parade, or demonstration in the State Capitol Rotunda without prior approval of the DOA.” The other two counts were for violating section 2.07(2) “unlawful display,” in this case chalking on the Capitol sidewalk.
After two turbulent years as Governor, Scott Walker is still obsessively focused on eliminating his greatest opponent, the peaceful singers in the Capitol Rotunda. His administration has been stymied in court with a record of nearly seventy dismissals and zero successful prosecutions, largely due to the ineffectual actions by the Capitol Police.
The DoJ takeover of the crackdown represents a new and dangerous shift in power. It seems the Capitol Police have been stripped of their former autonomy in issuing citations and have been relegated to errand boys and girls for the DoJ. Whereas Walker’s Department of Administration has operational authority over the Capitol, they have ceded their enforcement authority to career civil servants in the DoJ working at the behest of Attorney General Van Hollen.