Your Legislature. Delivered.

In this update: 1. Money flow mirrors vote tally on cable bill 2. What’s next in Jensen saga? Your Legislature. Delivered.

Email date: 11/9/07

In this update:
1. Money flow mirrors vote tally on cable bill
2. What’s next in Jensen saga?

The state Senate passed AT&T’s cable TV bill late yesterday. Assuming the Assembly agrees to the few noncontroversial amendments the Senate tacked on and the governor signs it into law as expected, this legislation will say a lot about who owns cable television in Wisconsin and what the terms of ownership will be. But it says much more about who owns our state government.

The Democracy Campaign just released an analysis showing that special interest backers of the cable bill gave senators who voted for it 12 times more in campaign contributions than they gave the senators who voted against it. AT&T alone gave 28 times more in campaign donations to senators who voted to approve the legislation.

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The jury foreman in Scott Jensen’s first corruption trial last year took sharp exception to yesterday’s state appeals court ruling ordering a new trial for the former Assembly speaker because of an improper jury instruction. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that " the instruction wasn’t one that would have swayed me or any of the other jurors as to guilty or not guilty. (Jensen) shouldn’t have been using public resources for his private gain. We would have come to the same conclusion without the instruction."

He told the Wisconsin State Journal that it was "wrong" for the trial court decision to be overturned on what he feels is a legal technicality, saying "it’s a sad commentary on our judicial system" and questioning whether a less-influential defendant would have had the lawyers and financial resources to win on appeal. He added that the bulk of the evidence in the case, including Jensen’s own testimony, supported a conviction for both Jensen and former aide Sherry Schultz.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. There are several possible scenarios that could play out. The appeals court decision calling for a new trial could be appealed to the state Supreme Court. That’s up to the state Justice Department and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. If no appeal is pursued, there could be a new trial and it appears the prosecutor who handled the first trial is prepared to prosecute Jensen again.

Another possibility is a plea agreement. Jensen was convicted once and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He may weigh the risk of being convicted again and decide to cop a plea. Instead of prison time, he could possibly negotiate a sentence along the lines of what other lawmakers who pleaded guilty received – a few months in jail with work release privileges or even home confinement. If this is the outcome, Jensen will be essentially admitting that the initial jury verdict was correct and will have gamed the system to stay out of prison.