Update: The total number of individuals that were never charged is 68 (47.8%), not 63 as the report initially noted.
Over the past two years, Milwaukee leaders have been making demands of state leaders to help them solve the city’s crime problem. One demand being made by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn is for a state law change requiring a 3-year mandatory sentence for illegally possessing a firearm. But while Barrett and Flynn continue to push for the mandatory minimum, a Media Trackers investigation shows that the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office may make their case for mandatory minimums a moot point.
In an open records request to the Milwaukee Police Department, Media Trackers requested information on all MPD police reports forwarded to the DA’s office with the recommended charge of “Possession of a Firearm by a Felon” — a felony under current law — during June, July and August of 2013. What Media Trackers found was that nearly half of those cases referred to the DA’s office by the MPD were never charged.
Of the 142 cases recommended for charges by the MPD between June and August of last summer, a year later Media Trackers was unable to locate any charge related to illegally possessing a firearm in 68 of those cases – a stunning 47.8% of the time – using WCCA.
In at least one case, Milwaukee DA John Chisholm’s office refused to charge a suspect with possession of a firearm as a felon in 2013 only to have the man charged with first degree intentional homicide a year later.
Keithany M. Brodie was recommended for charges of possessing a firearm as a felon in the summer of 2013 and was never charged according to WCCA records. A year later, Brodie was charged with first degree intentional homicide and robbery after police say he murdered a man in an attempted robbery. Interestingly, Chisholm’s office has finally charged Brodie with possession of a firearm as a felon – but only in connection with the murder.
WCCA records show between 2007 and 2011 Brodie was found guilty of at least two felonies, three misdemeanors and was even convicted of illegally carrying a concealed weapon in 2007. Yet Brodie was back on the streets in time to be arrested by police in 2013 for illegally possessing a firearm and to later be arrested for an alleged murder in 2014.
Obviously a pillar of Barrett and Flynn’s push for mandatory minimums would be the criminal is actually charged with the crime police allege they committed, but court records show that isn’t the case nearly half the time and cases like the Brodie case show that without the DA’s office supporting police, little is likely to change.
The underlying problem may be the DA office’s concern over their win-loss record. Media Trackers found that of the 56 cases that have been disposed of, just seven went to trial with only one person being found not guilty. The vast majority of cases – 71 percent – ended in a plea agreement.
In June a Media Trackers investigation showed that the Milwaukee DA’s office was far from overzealous in their prosecution of homicides, relying heavily on plea bargains and putting those charged in prison for just a fraction of what they were eligible for.
While Flynn and Barrett may see mandatory minimums as a panacea to illegal firearms, the reality – as with homicides – is that Flynn and Barrett should start with talking to Milwaukee DA John Chisholm about backing up Milwaukee police before they talk to the statehouse about changing laws.