For the second time, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Scott Jensen as the surrealistically drawn-out saga of corruption charges against the former Assembly speaker stretches well into its seventh year.
Jensen was originally charged in October 2002, and it was back in early 2005 when the high court first agreed to hear an appeal in this case. That time, Jensen was joined by other legislators caught up in the Capitol scandal as well as a former aide in an attempt to have the charges against them dismissed. The court barely had a quorum to take up the case because three justices recused themselves due to close personal or political ties to the defendants.
A fourth - Justice Patrick Crooks - heard the appeals despite having had Jensen as his campaign manager in 1995 and 1996. Crooks also received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Jensen's campaign committees and the justice's campaign finance reports listed payments of nearly $27,000 to a firm run by Jensen's wife for campaign work. More on that in a bit.
The court ultimately rejected the appeals and allowed the charges to stand. Jensen was eventually convicted and sentenced to prison, but his conviction was later overturned on a technicality in November 2007 and he was granted a new trial. Jensen has been trying ever since to get the location of the new trial switched from Dane County, where the crimes he's accused of are alleged to have occurred, to his home county of Waukesha. Two lower courts have turned him down, but now the Supreme Court will review those rulings.
At least two justices have no business participating in this decision. Justice Crooks has the aforementioned conflicts of interest. And Justice David Prosser served with Jensen in the Assembly where the two were close political allies. Moreover, Prosser agreed to serve as a character witness for Jensen in his first trial. He called Jensen a "person of the highest integrity" whom he had "always trusted." He went on to say Jensen is an "honest person and a fair person" and when asked during cross-examination if his opinion of Jensen would change if he knew Jensen lied in interviews with law enforcement officials, Prosser simply said "no."
What's more, Prosser admitted that when he was Assembly speaker he engaged in the same conduct that Jensen is being prosecuted for.
There is no way in hell either Prosser or Crooks should be anywhere in the room when the Supreme Court hears this latest appeal and then decides where the second trial of Scott Jensen will take place.