Scott Jensen's legal defense against felony charges of criminal misconduct in public office has taken a sharp turn down Surreal Boulevard. With his trial scheduled to begin February 21, the former Assembly speaker and current member of the Legislature's powerful Joint Finance Committee appears to be pinning his legal hopes on a story everyone who has passed through adolescence knows all too well: "Everybody was doing it."
Well, maybe not everybody, but at least some pretty big somebodies. Another former speaker who now is a sitting state Supreme Court justice, David Prosser, is prepared to testify that he stole from Wisconsin taxpayers by engaging in the same illegal campaigning that Jensen is accused of orchestrating. So is Joe Strohl, a former Senate majority leader turned Capitol lobbyist. Lucky for Prosser and Strohl that the crimes to which they are confessing took place more than six years ago, the statute of limitations for prosecuting felonies in Wisconsin.
Unlucky for Jensen that the offenses he is accused of committing are plenty recent enough to prosecute. And as District Attorney Brian Blanchard has told the court: "A claim that 'other guys were doing it' is a confession, not a defense." Something every parent has said to a child, in so many words, at one time or another.
If by some temporary loss of sanity a judge or jury fails to apply this basic common sense in response to Jensen crying selective prosecution, you have to think that motorists in every corner of the state who've been ticketed for speeding will be interested in having the likes of Prosser and Strohl testify that they too have speeded.