MADISON — An organization backed by the Democratic Attorneys General Association released a new television ad Tuesday accusing Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel of being soft on child molesters.
DAGA Wisconsin People's Lawyer Project spent about $807,000 on the 30-second spot. It will run in Green Bay, Appleton, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau and Rhinelander, DAGA spokeswoman Lizzie Ulmer said.
The ad alleges that when Schimel was a Waukesha County prosecutor, he repeatedly cut plea deals with child molesters, blamed underage sexual assault victims for having bad judgment and agreed to a plea deal with a man who was caught with child pornography after the man's attorney gave Schimel's campaign thousands of dollars. The ad features close-ups of a number of unidentified children with an unseen narrator saying, "For their safety, vote no on Schimel."
The ad follows one that Schimel's campaign released last month branding his Democratic challenger, former federal prosecutor Josh Kaul, of going easy on drug offenders. That ad accused Kaul of reaching plea deals with more than 60 drug offenders.
Schimel's campaign manager, Johnny Koremenos, said Schimel has been involved in more than 15,000 cases and has led more than 150 jury trial prosecutions.
"Voters who've examined the real Schimel Record have elected him several times as District Attorney and Attorney General because they know he's a tough prosecutor that gets justice for victims," Koremenos said in an email.
As evidence of its claims, the DAGA Wisconsin People's Lawyer Project lists on its website five child sexual assault cases that Schimel handled as a Waukesha County prosecutor from 2004 through 2007 that ended with plea deals.
The website notes that in 2003, Schimel didn't recommend jail time for a 17-year-old who was convicted of sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls in separate incidents. Schimel originally charged him with five felonies and four misdemeanors, but he reached a deal in which the teen pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault of a child.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Schimel told a judge that the victims didn't want their attacker to go to prison but wanted to make sure he didn't commit any more assaults and that both victims felt they used bad judgment when they allowed themselves to be alone with him. The judge sentenced the teen to a year in jail and 15 years of probation.
As for the attorney contributions, the website points to the case of Andrew Lambrecht. Schimel charged Lambrecht in June of 2013 with child pornography possession. Lambrecht wound up pleading guilty to that charge on Jan. 22, 2015, just days after Schimel was sworn in as attorney general.
Campaign finance reports show that Lambrecht's attorney, Matthew Huppertz, gave Schimel's campaign $5,000 in 2014. Huppertz didn't immediately reply to a voicemail left at his office Tuesday.