The analyst consensus from Tuesday’s state supreme court primary was that experience mattered to voters. Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock and Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet advanced, while Madison attorney Tim Burns finished a distant third. Screnock and Dallet also indicated they felt their bench experience helped them. With experience comes a track record. And while both judges’ records already have been examined somewhat, that effort will intensify in advance of the April general election.
Media Trackers previously reported on Dallet’s lenient sentencing in a case involving attempted sexual abuse of a child. But an examination of media reports shows a trend in Dallet’s sentencing practices. Dallet gave Donald Bruce Skenandore two years in prison and five years of extended supervision in 2011. Skenadore faced a potential 20-year sentence.
Skenadore’s sentence is an extreme example, but not a unique one of questionable sentences imposed by Dallet. In 2012, she sentenced Nicholas Fuchs to 10 years in prison and seven years extended supervision, rather than the maximum of 18, on a conviction of abusing his girlfriend’s children. Also in 2012, Dallet approved the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation of a man convicted of reckless homicide to 10 years in prison when the maximum was 20.
In 2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Teara Stewart could have faced up to 33 years in prison for child neglect and abuse. However, she was sentenced to just 13 years in prison and 9 years of extended supervision. In the article it described the treatment that the child was subjected to:
“The child was beaten with a belt and electrical cord. He was shaken and pushed. He was starved, weighing just over 20 pounds when he received treatment. The abuse and neglect occurred over a long period of time, according a medical expert quoted in court documents.”
While the article also mentions that Dallet said “it was hard for her to think of a child abuse case in which the child lived that was more serious than this case,” her imposed sentence of less than half the maximum time possible runs counter to that characterization.
According to Fox 6 news, in January of 2016 Dallet sentenced Jennifer Garcia, a woman convicted of “extreme physical abuse” of a 3-year old boy, to 35 years in prison with 28 years extended supervision, a long sentence by any measure. It is noteworthy nonetheless that the maximum sentence possible was 70 years. Fox 6 described that the child had “cigarette burns, bruises, a lacerated liver and brain damage,” while a prosecutor commented that the brain injury, “was so severe that the treatment team of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin did not expect him to survive.” Again, the sentence was half the prison time possible.
In a race that’s sure to bring up the importance of being tough on crime, the candidate’s respective sentencing histories will be relevant.