Monday, April 02, 2007

Ziegler Lenient on a Sex Offender?

Most of the cases in which the Linda Clifford campaign has accused Annette Ziegler of being soft on sex offenders hardly need any further analysis. But let’s look at one that is featured in a Linda Clifford campaign ad.

No Prison Time for a Sex Offender?

The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a state-wide political action committee funded by labor, education and healthcare PACs, attacked the tough-on-crime image that’s been a staple of Ziegler’s own ads with a spot claiming that Ziegler gave a convicted sex offender a lighter sentence than even his own defense attorney asked. The ad is true only if the sentence is measured strictly by years in prison. The whole story is more complicated.

In December 1998 a jury found Gary Tate guilty of sexually assaulting his step-daughter repeatedly during a three-year period. Ziegler sentenced Tate to 25 years in prison but stayed the sentence, instead giving him a year in county jail and 20 years’ probation conditioned upon Tate successfully completing a treatment program for sexual offenders. At the time, admission of guilt was a requirement of the treatment program.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ziegler made this comment at the sentencing:
MJ-S: “I want very much to punish the defendant for what he did,” Ziegler said. “I want very much to protect the community.” Equally important is providing treatment “so this never happens to anyone else again,” Ziegler said.
Tate filed a motion asking for a new trial, but Ziegler denied it. Tate refused to admit he was guilty, which meant he automatically flunked his sexual-offender treatment. His probation was revoked as a result, and he began serving his 25-year prison sentence.

In November 2002, Tate appealed his probation revocation. The case went to the state Supreme Court. Tate’s lawyers argued that since his sexual-offender treatment required him to incriminate himself and thereby forfeit any possibility of future appeals, the revocation of his parole was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in Tate’s favor. He was released from prison and is living in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Sex-Offender Registry.

The ad is misleading in implying that Ziegler sentenced Tate to nothing more than a year in county jail. It would have been accurate to say that Tate became a free man just four years after his conviction as a result of Ziegler’s sentence.
So we ask, as we did in a previous post: do liberals see anything ethically wrong with campaign ads that intentionally try to mislead?

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