I am quite proud that my post about Scott Jensen’s plea deal that was announced yesterday reflected almost point for point what the Wisconsin State Journal lead editorial stated today. My post was completed late yesterday afternoon, and the newspaper rolled out their copies this morning. In both cases it is a complete rejection of the type of politics that Scott Jensen played, and the plea deal that leaves justice in the mud.
If you missed the print copy on your stoop here is what you should read.
Scott Jensen called Monday a “bright sunshiny day.”
But for the rest of Wisconsin and its justice system, the mood matched the weather: cold and cloudy with snow.
The former and fallen Assembly speaker from Waukesha managed to dodge a jail cell and felony charges Monday after eight years of fighting and delaying his case in court.
Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel gave Jensen an early Christmas present, with Judge Patrick L. Snyder blessing the sweetheart deal.
Instead of taking Jensen to trial for misconduct in office, Schimel slapped Jensen’s wrist with a $5,000 fine. Jensen also will have to pay back the state $67,000 that taxpayers had covered for a portion of Jensen’s legal bills.
The only good news in this bad ending to Wisconsin’s worst political scandal in a generation is that Jensen won’t be able to run for public office again. That’s because Jensen agreed not to appeal a previous misdemeanor conviction for misusing his state leadership position for private benefit.
But the public will always remember that Jensen never served a single day behind bars — despite cheating taxpayers to give himself and his loyal pals unfair advantage in elections. Like other top lawmakers of his day — both Democrats and Republicans — Jensen turned public employees into private campaign armies that served to further his political power.
Jensen was convicted of felony misconduct in office in 2006 and sentenced to 15 months in prison. But that conviction was overturned in 2007.
Jensen and his expensive lawyers then succeeded in moving the case to his home county of Waukesha, where Schimel came up with plenty of excuses for why he couldn’t muster another trial on behalf of good government in Wisconsin.
Schimel, as well as Snyder, should have given more thought to the terrible message their weak actions will send. They just reinforced public suspicions that prominent people with friends in high places and lots of money can dodge justice.
It’s a disturbing end to the nearly decade-long case. Jensen may have dodged a jail cell, but he’ll always be guilty in the court of public opinion for badly breaking the public trust.