Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Entrapping "Thug Mike"?

Yesterday, a federal jury took just 6 hours to deliver guilty verdicts on 9 felony counts of bribery, extortion, attempted extortion and failing to file a financial form on a wire transfer of $15,000 against former Milwaukee alderman Michael McGee, Jr. [See McGee Guilty - JS Online] The entire uproar consisted of complaints by local Arab businessmen that McGee was shaking them down for money and gifts in direct connection with their liquor licences. In essence, no money, no license.

At first blush, the evidence seemed overwhelming: hours upon hours of recorded wiretaps where McGee referred to himself as "Thug Mike" and repeatedly appeared to be telling these government witnesses that he was God to them in their ability to stay in business. In his own words, McGee claimed to be the "gatekeeper." A closer examination, however, exposes at least a plausible entrapment defense. That seemed to be where the defense was trying to head but ultimately they portrayed the informants as incredible plotters just looking to remove a sitting alderman. There was plenty of evidence to support that view including the fact that the star witness, Adel “Jack” Kheirieh, actually ran for McGee's seat following his arrest even though Kheireh lived in Franklin.

Personally, I think that 2 things are going on: First, McGee had a huge target on his back from day 1 - just being the son of former alderman Mike McGee was enough to draw fire. The FBI and the US Attorney's office have spent a great deal of time and resources focusing on City Hall in the past few years (and state officials, too). They have racked up some convictions (Pawlinski, Cameron, Henningson) but have had some colossal embarrassments (Thompson, Donovan). Given that very mixed record, one has to question the tactics and judgement of law enforcement in gathering evidence and bringing cases that are highly questionable.

Second, and related, the fact that no other business owners than this tight group of Arab businessmen (who cling together under pretty much any environment as they all deal with each other just to survive) testified about McGee's conduct seems instructive. Were they the only businesses in the district with liquor licences? Hardly. However, if McGee was as thoroughly corrupt as he was represented, wouldn't all the black, white and Asian license holders be lining up to testify? The 6th district has 86 licences listed here and the government included testimony from a very small group of closely aligned business owners that went to great lengths to enhance the target on McGee's back. Where were the rest? Undisturbed by McGee, apparently.

I saw only a small portion of the trial but it seems that the verdict is at least questionable given the intense focus by law enforcement and the context of the 6th district business environment. As to propriety of the Aldermadic Privelege, that will have to wait for another blog post, such as the one about overzealous prosecutors and TJ Perlick-Molinari, the hero of that day.

White Collar Crimes

John A. Birdsall, Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.

135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203

414.831.5465 -

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Tragedy of Overzealous Prosecutors

Recently on this blog, my associate, TJ Perlick-Molinari, discussed a gang shooting case he won by talking about "The Tragedy of Gang Violence." It was, as he pointed out, a nasty and unnecessary shooting. What he failed to mention (or brag about!) is how important a vigorous defense attorney is in the process of criminal justice. Here, the state charged a shooting as a "party to a crime" which includes aiding and abetting, facilitating, conspiracy, etc., to commit the crime. However, the prosecutor alleged, through their victim, that our client did it directly.

The victim was just a rival gang member who was out to enhance his position and reduce his own prison time. It was a ridiculous case that never should have been brought and the jury saw right through it. If it hadn't been for TJ's aggressive defense, this client would be at Dodge Correctional Institution right now. The defense matters - though this is largely unseen and unrecognized by the public. TJ's post was far too modest - he was a hero that day for the cause of acting as a fundamental check on governmental power that ran amuk. Kudos to him and all like him that call out prosecutors and police without just rolling over and pleading clients out.

John A. Birdsall, Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.831.5465 -

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Tragedy of Gang Violence

Today, I was reminded once again that crime does not pay. A young Spanish Cobra was on trial for allegedly shooting a Latin Kings member. I represented the young Spanish Cobra. This case, like so many, revolved around the issue of whether or not the jury believed the testimony of the Latin King gangster. This victim of gang warfare and violence had in fact been shot. There was no doubt about that. The bullet was still in his body. The real question was, who did it.

At the hospital after surgery, the Latin King made no affirmative identification of his shooter. He told the jury he was planning on taking care of this in the streets, and not cooperating with the police investigation. Turns out, he was already cooperating with the federal government regarding the indictment of his fellow Latin Kings. Part of that cooperation included being offered a proffer letter. This letter allowed him to make statements that could not be used against him unless they turned out to be false. In exchange for these statements, the government would give him consideration at sentencing.

In all gang investigations, the three things that investigators are most keen about are armed robberies, homicides, and shootings. It just so happens that this was a shooting case, albeit the shooting case of the victim in this case.

The victim decided to testify in this case and confront his alleged aggressor. During cross examination, he made statements that seeing Spanish Cobras die or go to prison would make him, “very happy.” He talked of his disdain for rival gang members and how he had been involved with his gang for many years, constantly fighting with other gangs to establish territory.

The result of that lifestyle was an indictment by the federal government. Trying to spare himself some time in prison he decided to cooperate. It just so happens that only after he had been under the proffer letter I talked about earlier did he pick his own shooter out of a lineup.

He insisted he knew the guy and that he lived at a certain address on the south side, and further that he would be able to identify him. All of this is well and good, but it was quite obvious to everyone on the jury that of course this victim is going to know members of his rival gang. He did not dislike my client starting the day he got shot. He had his hatred for this man for quite some time.

Ultimately, his credibility was torn to pieces during cross examination. Because the state did not have any other witnesses or direct evidence, the jury felt that while they did not care for my client, they really did not care for the victim or find him to have one ounce of credibility.

The victim in this case nearly lost his life. But that was a gamble he made years ago when he decided to live a life of deceit and violence as a member of a dangerous street gang. As for my client, not guilty was the verdict.

Attorney Theodore J. "TJ" Perlick-Molinari
Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203

State of Wisconsin charged:
Count 1: 940.23(1)(a) - 1st Degree Reckless Injury - Felony D
Found Not Guilty at Jury Trial

Count 2 - 941.29(2)(a) - Felon Possess Firearm - Felony G
Found Not Guilty at Jury Trial

Thursday, June 12, 2008


While thinking about the recent case of the corrupt, and now exposed, Special Operations Section (SOS) of the Chicago Police Department, I mused about the nature of our police, prosecutors and far too many judges to never take the word of the accused against someone in law enforcement. That inherently suspicious nature is, perhaps, inevitable. It is also very unfortunate. It is what makes many court proceedings unfair - often in the extreme - and leads to making the truth-finding function of the courts a sham formality. Perhaps a bit of perspective is needed as in these thoughts from the Father of Taoism, Lao-Tzu:
Once upon a time a man whose ax was missing suspected his neighbor's son. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the man found his ax while digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his neighbor's son, the boy walked, looked, and spoke like any other child. Similary:
The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be. Lao Tzu
Perhaps we need to revisit the origins and power of the presumption of innocence........

John A. Birdsall, Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.831.5465 -

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dangers of Hysteria

Here is yours truly appealing to the media and public to lay off my client who was the victim of false accusations and hysteria by both the media and witnesses.

He was a youth coach of many sports and beloved by both his players and their parents. During football season, he was coaching a rec league team when his son (age 12) was hit by a larger, older (age 13) player from his own team during a scrimmage with an illegal "chop block." This is a hit from behind that is very dangerous and often, as here, results in serious injury. While is son was writhing on the ground, and the other boy (who had done this before to others and was warned about it) was laughing about it, my now angry client rushed to attend to his son. In his way was the other boy who he pushed aside and injured him. Both boys went to the hospital but the attacker was back practicing the next day. My client's son was out for a week.

The day it happened, blanket media coverage ensued because one parent went on the news and claimed (falsely per many other witnesses - including the other coaches) that my client picked the other boy up over his head, spun him around and slammed him to the ground - WWF style. The ever hungry local media went for it in a big way and the false story stuck. Ultimately, despite all evidence to the contrary, he was forced to plead to battery and was sentenced to 24 days jail. He felt he had no choice because the coverage was literally ruining his life - he was threatened at home, his children were harrassed at school and he lost 2 jobs. He was also banned from ALL coaching and even attending school events his own children were involved in! There is no doubt that had the media circus not ensued, none of this would have occured.

The real message here? If you are caught up in the passion of a media storm....the "witnesses" who make it onto the news are more important than the supposedly calmer, rationale court process. I did my best to blunt this affect but the public's limited attention span is going to believe the first thing they hear and inquire no farther....DA's and court's, ever mindful of news coverage of their actions, are undoubtedly influenced by this. It's a steep hill I hope no readers of this blog ever needs to climb!

News: TMJ4 -

See also:
Battery Defined

John A. Birdsall, Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.831.5465 -

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Defense Lawyers Vindicated

On 6/1/08, Chicago Police Officer Kieth Herrera went public for the first time about massive corruption within his "Special Operations Section" (dubbed SOS) in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. Up until now, his ratting out was done strictly with the FBI. His appearance on 60 minutes detailed the rampant corruption within the SOS that, in summary, amount to uncontrolled police state tactics to "get the job done" - i.e. use whatever means are necessary to get drugs and guns off the street. This includes beating suspects, warrantless and unjustified searches, lying in reports and in court - all in the name of "justice."

Now, I could go on a rant about the police and their ridiculous rationalizations about how they HAVE to break the law to get at these criminals. However, the important point for folks (i.e., the public who are typically silent on these points) to remember is that it is exposing exactly this sort of illegal overreaching that defense lawyers do every day in this country. And, I would be quick to add, that we are really only ones doing it. The DA's don't - they work WITH these guys every day and consider them partners in their valient mission. The judges don't because even though they can't honestly believe that the police are always honest, they really have nothing else to go on other than a pissing contest between defendants and cops. It is the defense lawyer that investigates and presents this corruption and overreaching to courts. It is a very difficult uphill battle most of the time but the legal basis is usually a 4th (searches), 5th (Miranda, confrontation) or 6th Amendment (right to an attorney) claim. Some call them "technicalities" but we call them mechanisms form achieving some semblance of fairness.

For an excellent article on the "defense of defense attorneys" (by a federal judge no less!!) click here. Yes we matter.

See also:
Police Interrogations
Legally, Police CAN Lie

John A. Birdsall, Birdsall Law Offices, S.C.
135 W. Wells St., Ste 214, Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.831.5465 -