By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Republican attorney general candidate Eric Toney has joined a chorus of conservatives calling on Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm to be fired amid exploding violent crime in Wisconsin’s most populous county.
Toney, Fond du Lac district attorney, had yet to weigh in publicly on the question of Chisholm, who has been widely criticized for his progressive policies following a rash of high-profile crimes, including the Waukesha Christmas parade massacre.
His opponent in the Republican primary, attorney and former legislator Adam Jarchow, has called on Gov. Tony Evers to remove Chisholm from office. Jarchow hand-delivered a complaint to Evers’ office demanding the Democrat take action. Leading Republican candidates for governor, Rebecca Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson have said Chisholm should be fired or resign. Attorney General Josh Kaul, who, like Evers, has been an advocate of liberal criminal justice policies, has said the voters should decide.
In his most direct comments on the subject, Toney tells Empower Wisconsin he believes Evers should fire Chisholm.
“The mission of a district attorney is to fight crime. DA John Chisholm has failed that mission as Wisconsin experiences unprecedented violence and drugs emanating from Milwaukee. He should be fired,” Toney said. “I recognized this crisis before the Waukesha parade massacre which is why this past October I called for cash bail reform and the Attorney General to have original criminal jurisdiction over Milwaukee County to prosecute the crime DA Chisholm is unwilling or unable to prosecute.”
Toney had been conspicuously quiet on the topic in the weeks and months after a Milwaukee man was charged with driving his SUV into the Nov. 21 Waukesha Christmas parade and mowing down scores of people. Darrell Brooks Jr. has been charged with six counts of homicide and more than 70 related charges.
“All of the victims who were killed and most of the people that were injured were walking right down the middle of the road in plain view,” the criminal complaint states. “(The street) was clearly closed to traffic, there were barricades in place and police present to direct motorists for the entire length of the parade route.”
Chisholm’s office had recommended what even the liberal DA admitted was “inappropriately low” bail — a mere $1,000 — for Brooks just days before he is suspected of terrorizing Waukesha. Brooks had been in jail on eerily similar charges, accused of driving over the mother of his child in the same SUV just three weeks before the Waukesha massacre.
Chisholm blamed the low bail on “human error,” insisting an assistant DA set the amount without having access to a risk assessment file. But Chisholm sees himself as a national leader in liberal criminal justice reform, including low-bail/no-bail policies. Early in his 14-year tenure as Milwaukee County DA, Chisholm warned his policies could kill.
And they have.
His office is at the center of numerous low bail decisions that have come back to hurt society, including a spate of law enforcement officer shootings by repeat offenders who should have been locked up.
More than a dozen Republican lawmakers have urged Evers to fire the prosecutor.
Milwaukee County citizens filed a complaint in December asking Evers to remove Chisholm from office on charges of dereliction of duty. Evers instead hired a Madison attorney to declare the complaint invalid, weaseling out of even opening an investigation into the district attorney’s conduct.
Kaul shrugged off the complaint, saying “it’s up to the voters to decide” Chisholm’s fate.
“We’ve got a system where our DAs are elected in Wisconsin and that’s a decision for voters to make,” Kaul said in December.
Of course, Chisholm’s current term runs through 2024, so critics say Kaul’s answer is to let the guy responsible for an unprecedented level of violent crime in and around Milwaukee continue to serve until Milwaukee County voters decide they’ve had enough.
“I was the first person in Wisconsin to deliver a written demand to Tony Evers that he fire John Chisholm,” Jarchow said of his complaint filed with Evers’ office in early December. “How many cops and innocent civilians have to be killed and injured by violent criminals out of jail before Tony Evers does his job and fires John Chisholm?”
Toney said Kaul is “clueless” on how to take on violent crime, and said Jarchow has criticized him for calling for Wisconsin’s attorney general to have original criminal jurisdiction over Milwaukee County violent crime cases.
“Eric Toney believes that taxpayers in the rest of the state should be on the hook to subsidize the failures of Milwaukee’s liberal leaders. I disagree,” Jarchow said. “While I have called for DOJ to have a role in prosecuting certain crimes in Milwaukee, the rest of the state must not be saddled with the bill. If Milwaukee liberals can’t get their act together, they should be required to pay for those additional services.
“Josh Kaul has been a disaster for Wisconsin, and it’s time to elect a trusted, reliable conservative to the Attorney General’s office.”
Toney fired back that Jarchow “doesn’t understand that Milwaukee violence bleeds across Wisconsin and we must regain law and order in our largest city.” He added that taxpayers already foot the bill for assistant DAs and assistant attorney generals in the state.
“If the Milwaukee DA won’t do his job then I’ll do it for him as Attorney General because Milwaukee violence impacts all of Wisconsin,” Toney said.