Court appoints special prosecutor in investigation of sheriff’s office
Wilz accuses Isherwood of 11th hour election stunt
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County Circuit Court Judge Raymond Huber appointed a special prosecutor to review an investigation into the conduct of Sheriff Tim Wilz and some of his administrative staff.
District Attorney Veronica Isherwood issued a press release Monday morning regarding the special prosecutor.
Isherwood said she had requested the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to conduct a Public Integrity investigation of the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office.
“That investigation has been completed,” Isherwood said. “As a result of the criminal investigation into the actions of the sheriff and some of his administrative staff, the Waupaca County Circuit Court has appointed a special prosecutor to review the investigation for possible criminal charges.”
Wilz faces an election Tuesday. Detective Sgt. Cameron Durrant is challenging Wilz for the sheriff’s office in the Republican primary.
“I acknowledge that tomorrow is a primary election date. But I feel the correct information is important to be shared,” Isherwood said.
Isherwood requested the DCI investigation after discovering that the sheriff’s office committed a Brady violation.
Under the Brady rule, prosecutors and law enforcement must disclose any evidence that could benefit the defendant.
“The violation involved a detective captain who incorrectly instructed a deputy that he did not need a search warrant when a suspect’s vehicle was seized and searched because it was suspected to contain evidence of a separate crime that had previously been referred to the district attorney,” Isherwood said in the press release. “That same captain then changed the deputy’s report to cover up the incorrect direction, concealing exculpatory evidence in the process.”
An anonymous whistleblower informed the district attorney of the violation, who then informed the defendant’s attorney.
The defense attorney filed a motion to suppress evidence found during the illegal search.
Huber found the action of changing the officer’s report and withholding exculpatory evidence to be a “Brady violation.”
“I guess I’m not at this point in time necessarily inclined to identify an individual in the Sheriff’s Department who was involved in a Brady violation,” Huber said during the Feb. 21 hearing. “I’m more inclined to find the Department as a whole from the Sheriff on down. So I will not make any express findings as to who’s involved. There could be lots of dirty hands here. But I will find there has been a Brady violation. Court directs that all evidence and fruits there of be suppressed.”
Wilz filed an appeal, seeking a supervisory writ of mandamus that would require the circuit court to withdraw the Brady finding.
“The petition fails to establish on its face the basic criteria for issuance of a supervisory writ,” the decision said in denying Wilz request for a writ.
During the Feb. 21 hearing, Wilz testified the report was not changed, it was “corrected” and that such corrections happen regularly.
Isherwood noted in her press release that when asked about making a false statement to the district attorney, Wilz testified, “I guess I can tell Isherwood anything I want.”
“This testimony has thrown the district attorney’s ability to prosecute criminal cases based on Sheriff’s Office referrals into a tailspin,” Isherwood said. “The district attorney cannot work on correcting the issues with a Sheriff who believes he can lie to her and refuses to acknowledge the unconstitutional actions of a member of his administration staff.”
The special prosecutor was appointed on July 29 to review the DCI’s investigative report. No charges have been filed at this time.
“The Waupaca County District Attorney has reached a new low today in issuing an 11th hour election stunt in further attempts to mislead voters,” Wilz said in a press release on Monday afternoon. “I continue to stand up against those that attempt to harm the County and the victims of crimes.”
Wilz denied that there were any issues of wrongdoing within the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office and accused Isherwood of being “soft on crime.”
“Despite months of inefficient use of valuable court time, baseless allegations and a dis-service to the victims of crimes in Waupaca County, today’s press release from the district attorney does no more than hurt the safety of our community,” Wilz said.
Wilz also released a copy of a June 21 letter that Chief Deputy Carl Artz sent to state Attorney General Josh Kaul requesting a formal investigation into potential law violations by the district attorney.
The letter complains that the DCI had ignored three previous requests for an investigation and the state Department of Justice has not responded to a Public Integrity investigation.
“While three DCI investigators have been on sight (site), they disavowed any knowledge of our complaint and refused to address any of the Sheriff’s Office concerns,” Artz said in the letter. “To the contrary, the individuals assigned by DCI appear to have close personal ties to the Sheriff’s Office officers receiving discipline demonstrating a biased review.”
Artz said, “Isherwood has inserted herself and compromised pending personnel matters in the Sheriff’s Office.”
He argued that Isherwood had become an advocate for employees who were disciplined for undermining their female captain, “potentially involving sexual discrimination,” disregarding orders and undermining the sheriff’s authority.
Artz said Isherwood was violating the due process rights of the captain and others in the sheriff’s office by identifying them as Brady officers.
He also said she violated the sheriff’s rights to determine what matters to refer for prosecution.
“To be clear, the Sheriff’s office stands by its officers, its reports and its referrals,” Artz said.