Milwaukee County’s deferred prosecution program has grown into a major initiative that allows hundreds of defendants each year to walk away from criminal charges with little or no consequences in exchange for getting treatment and staying out of trouble, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Some defendants awarded breaks committed serious crimes, including several that prosecutors admit violate their own policy, a Journal Sentinel analysis of three years of court records found.
The review of cases filed from 2007 to 2009 found dozens of examples that raise questions about how the county’s deferred prosecution program is being implemented. Prosecutors offered deferred agreements to defendants charged with felony sexual assault, high-volume cocaine and marijuana trafficking, armed robbery, and other weapons crimes. More than 200 defendants charged with offenses such as felony assault to police officers, prostitution, burglary, felony child abuse, lewd behavior and graffiti were given deferred prosecutions. Some offenders were given successive plea deals after getting arrested on new charges and failing to meet the terms of earlier agreements. At least a dozen people with extensive criminal records were given deferred agreements. The newspaper’s investigation marks the first review of the deferred prosecution program since it was revamped in 2007 under newly elected District Attorney John Chisholm, who billed it as a way to relieve the overburdened court system.