The two district attorneys in the race for state attorney general are both fending off charges that they mishandled cases involving sex offenders.
The Wisconsin Republican Party filed an ethics complaint with the Government Accountability Board last week alleging that Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ — the Democrat in the race — cut a deferred prosecution deal with a man charged with sexually assaulting a teenager. The complaint says Happ made the deal so the man could finish paying for a house he was buying from Happ and her husband.
Happ said she followed Supreme Court guidelines in the case by referring the sex offense charges to an assistant DA.
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“I screened myself off, which is what the Supreme Court rules require,” she said. “I had no involvement with that case and I know that the findings will be that I acted appropriately, that I followed the rules.”
The state elections board acknowledges the complaint has been filed, but would not confirm that it will result in an investigation.
Meanwhile Democratic party officials say Happ’s Republican opponent, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, has also cut plea deals with sex offenders. They point to one case where Schimel allowed a 19-year-old to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges for assaulting a 14-year-old girl rather than face felony charges. Schimel’s campaign said the offender did end up serving time and is on the sex offender registry.
Happ said a tit-for-tat argument about individual cases shouldn’t be the focus of the campaign, and notes that in all such cases it’s the judge who determines the final outcome, not the prosecutor .
“A judge sentences a defendant, a judge accepts a deferred prosecution agreement, and so there is a system of checks and balances,” said Happ. “I want this campaign to be about the issues.”
Happ and Schimel will face off in three debates on the issues before the Nov. 4 election.
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