Former Winnebago County, Wi., District Attorney Joe Paulus was sentenced yesterday to nearly five years in prison – almost double what prosecutors sought – for accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from 1998 to 2000, repors the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The money came from a defense attorney and bought leniency for 22 of his clients, mostly in drunken driving cases. “We’re not looking at isolated incidents that came in a moment of weakness,” said U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach.
Paulus pleaded guilty in April in a plea deal for a 32-month prison term. The judge exceeded sentencing guidelines and issued a 58-month prison term because Paulus’ admitted corruption “undermines the system itself” to a more serious degree than a standard sentencing chart reflects. “The most important things in life are not quantifiable, and one of them is justice,” Griesbach said. Paulus, 44, had been district attorney for 14 years before losing the Republican primary in 2002 as federal authorities investigated his office. In 2001, Paulus had been a finalist for U.S. Attorney before the allegations surfaced.