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In her motion on behalf of Otto, Madison attorney Tracey Wood contends Bollenbeck violated Wisconsin Supreme Court rules by guaranteeing Otto would avoid prison on two counts of causing injury by drunken driving, charged in 2001. Otto received three years in prison and 17 years of extended supervision.
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Lawyer for Attorney Who Pleaded The Fifth Says Bias Behind Claims

OSHKOSH. The lawyer for an Appleton attorney who refused to answer under oath if he had bribed former prosecutors says the press is being duped by a biased prosecutor.

By Ed Lowe
Post-Crescent staff writer

In an interview with The Post-Crescent, Stephen Kravit of Milwaukee, Wisconsin implied questions asked of Appleton attorney Richard Bollenbeck at a July 2 deposition were inappropriate.

At a deposition taken for a case involving a former Bollenbeck client seeking to reduce her sentence for a drunken driving conviction, Winnebago County Assistant District Attorney Mike Balskus asked Bollenbeck if he had made cash payments to former Winnebago County District Attorney Joe Paulus and former Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic in exchange for favorable treatments of his clients.

Bollenbeck -- whose former client claims he touted his ties to Paulus as a reason for her to hire him -- acted on Kravit's advice and exercised his Fifth Amendment constitutional right to avoid potentially self-incriminating statements.

Bollenbeck declined to answer nearly all of Balskus' questions during the deposition.

Kravit, a criminal defense lawyer, declined to discuss the legal strategy.

He said Tuesday night: "I suggest to you that, as reporters, you're all taking hook, line and sinker what a particularly motivated assistant district attorney chooses to say. Perhaps you would be remiss if you didn't question why it is that Assistant District Attorney Balskus feels..."

The connection to Kravit's cell phone went dead at that point. Kravit did not respond to subsequent repeated attempts to reach him by telephone Tuesday night and Wednesday. Bollenbeck did not respond to calls to his office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Balskus, who served as an Outagamie County assistant district attorney under Biskupic and left in January when Biskupic deputy Carrie Schneider took over the office, has been a vocal critic of the prosecutorial practices of the pair.

He joined the Winnebago County staff of District Attorney Bill Lennon weeks after Lennon took over the office from Paulus.

Biskupic did not seek reelection in 2002 and lost a statewide bid as the Republican candidate for Wisconsin attorney general. Paulus lost to Lennon in Winnebago County's 2002 Republican primary.

Balskus, who has told The Post-Crescent he believes Bollenbeck clients received unusually lenient sentences or avoided charges altogether as a result of dealings with Biskupic, defended his questions of Bollenbeck, posed as part of a post-conviction motion filed by Melinda Otto of Menasha.

"Every question that was asked has a bearing on the case," Balskus said Wednesday. He said allegations of prosecutorial favoritism toward Bollenbeck's clients involve cases handled in "both counties, Outagamie and Winnebago."

"The allegation that this defendant makes is very similar to what other defendants and other attorneys have said occurred," Balskus said. "There are a lot of statements (Bollenbeck) made to Otto regarding his influence, and (the questions) related to those."

Although Balskus represented the state during Bollenbeck's deposition, he said Wednesday that his goal as prosecutor was not simply to defeat Otto's motion, which seeks resentencing on the charges or a chance to withdraw her plea. Nor is it to defend Bollenbeck, he said.

"That's funny, because that's what (Kravit) asked me," Balskus said. "As an assistant district attorney, the No. 1 thing I'm interested in is applying justice. I want to know what the truth is. The second question is, was there wrongdoing, was there a problem? The third question is, what's the remedy?"

In her motion on behalf of Otto, Madison attorney Tracey Wood contends Bollenbeck violated Wisconsin Supreme Court rules by guaranteeing Otto would avoid prison on two counts of causing injury by drunken driving, charged in 2001.

Otto's affidavit alleges Bollenbeck told her he "knew all the players" in the case and guaranteed she would avoid prison in return for a $5,000 retainer. Wood also maintains Bollenbeck was negligent in handling Otto's case, prompting Otto to receive an unduly harsh sentence.

Otto, who did not contest the charges, received three years in prison, followed by 17 years of extended supervision, at sentencing before Winnebago County Circuit Judge Tom Gritton on Oct. 10, 2001. Otto is serving the sentence at the John C. Burke Correctional Center in Waupun.

Prosecutions of drunken driving defendants by Paulus, who was defeated in his bid for an eighth consecutive term last year, are a subject of an ongoing FBI probe of alleged cash-for-consideration deals in Winnebago County.

Biskupic is under investigation by the state Ethics Board for allegedly using his position as district attorney to benefit crime-prevention organizations with which he was affiliated. The Ethics Board probe concerns payments by defendants and would-be defendants through court orders and deferred prosecution agreements that sometimes enabled offenders to avoid charges.

Biskupic has not responded to repeated requests for comment this week. Paulus has refused media interviews since entering private practice this year.

Related Topics:
Drunk Driving | Wisconsin Drunk Driving Law
Attorney Tracey A. Wood