By Jerry Bader and James Wigderson
The campaign manager for Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel says several television stations in Wisconsin have agreed to stop airing an ad attacking Schimel. Johnny Koremenos said that “at issue is a commercial run by the People’s Lawyer Project, a shadowy out-of-state group funded by the Democratic Attorneys General Association. The advertisement contains several demonstrable lies, including referring to a phantom plea deal that never happened and attributing cases to Brad Schimel which were not his.”
Koremenos tells Media Trackers that several stations have already agreed to stop airing the ad and hopes to get it pulled from all stations.
Koremenos reported the the group planned to spend $800,000 to run the ads to support the Democratic candidate, Josh Kaul. Koremenos told Media Trackers that the ads, which went up Tuesday, were running in virtually every TV market in the state. In a news release, Koremenos detailed what he said where the falsehoods in the ad:
False Claim #1: “But Attorney General Brad Schimel repeatedly cut plea deals for men who sexually assaulted children.”
Facts: Two of the cases listed above, Waukesha County Case 06CF650 – State of Wisconsin v. Joseph P. Betka, and Waukesha County Case 07CF634 – State of Wisconsin v. James T. White, were assigned to Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Debra L. Blasius. The attached criminal complaints, which are marked Exhibits 1 and 2, show Attorney Blasius as the assigned attorney. This information is also publicly available on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program.
False Claim #2: “He blamed underage victims of sexual assault for their quote ‘bad judgment.’”
Facts: Attorney General Schimel has a track record of taking a victim-centered approach to prosecutions and has never blamed a victim. In the case at issue, Waukesha County Case 03CF1151 – Wisconsin v. Dustin M. Yoss, Attorney General Schimel (who was at the time an Assistant District Attorney), describes how the victim had been feeling regarding the circumstances of the sexual assault. During the sentencing hearing, Schimel said, “As a matter of fact, Victoria, a/k/a Channon, has been struggling with blaming herself. She considers — and both victims consider their decisions they made that night to be very bad judgment to put themselves in the bedroom alone with Mr. Yoss. They look back now and they see they used very bad judgment. They’re struggling with that because they are — they’ve been working with others to counsel their way through this, and they know that going into the bedroom doesn’t give him permission to do anything to them.” The sentencing hearing transcript is attached and marked as Exhibit 3.
False Claim #3: “And after a lawyer for a man caught with child pornography gave thousands of dollars to Schimel’s campaign, that man got a plea deal . . . just days after Schimel took office.”
Facts: Attorney General Schimel declined to amend the charge in Waukesha County Case 13CF650 – State of Wisconsin v. Andrew M. Lambrecht. The case was set for trial until January 22, 2015, when Andrew M. Lambrecht changed his plea from “not guilty” and pled “guilty” to the original felony charge of possession of child pornography. This information is publicly available on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program. Further, the mother of Andrew Lambrecht wrote the following to Attorney General Schimel’s campaign yesterday:
“I am writing you as the mother of someone in a commercial against Brad Schimel it states my sons name and case number stating his attorney gave thousands to Brad’s campaign to cut a plea deal for my son. This is TOTALLY FALSE!! There was no plea deal he was sentenced to the mandatory minimum in this state!”
According to the release:
In a letter to television stations, Kathryn Sawyer Gutenkunst and Matthew Fernholz, Waukesha County attorneys with Cramer, Multhauf & Hammes, LLP, write: “Your continued rebroadcast of this false material could impact not only the outcome of the election, but more importantly, the victims of the above-mentioned cases, who have now suffered, yet again, by DAGA’s false and malicious statements. In addition to your legal obligations, you must consider your moral obligation to those victims, as well as the public at large.”
A copy of the letter to WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee can be read online.
In part, the letter also states that the stations themselves could be in legal jeopardy if they continue airing the commercial from the People’s Lawyer Project.
“Because this ad contains a number of demonstrably false allegations, we demand that your station immediately cease broadcasting this ad,” the letter states. “Given that the election is less than two weeks away, any delay on your part will constitute an act of actual malice, and would be in reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the advertisement. See New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).”
DAGA did not respond to requests on Wednesday and Thursday for a comment on the content of the ad, the claims of the Schimel campaign and the decision by several television stations to take the ad down.
In an online press conference on Thursday, Koremenos said that the lawyers from DAGA will try to make the dispute a “they said, we said” disagreement.
“This isn’t politics,” Koremenos said. “This is the law. You cannot argue with facts.”
Koremenos also said Kaul’s time in Baltimore has led him to believe that he can leave the negative campaigning to a third-party group.
“It’s probably what Josh Kaul has come to expect, he’s come to learn, living his life, a majority of his adult life, on the east coast,” Koremenos said. “But that’s not how we do it here in Wisconsin.”