Judge orders the DOJ to release Schimel videos

October 31, 2014

This 2014 photo provided by Andy Haas Schneider for the Schimel campaign shows Republican attorney general candidate Brad Schimel. A judge scheduled a hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, over a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Democratic Party to get law enforcement training videos made by Schimel. Wisconsin Democrats filed the lawsuit saying they think the footage might show Schimel made inappropriate remarks at the seminars.

MADISON A judge ordered the state Department of Justice on Thursday to release videos of two training seminars Republican attorney general hopeful Brad Schimel gave for prosecutors but decided to give the agency time to appeal the ruling, a move that could push the release past Election Day.

The state Democratic Party believes Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, made inappropriate remarks at five DOJ-run training seminars since 2009. Schimel has denied those allegations but Democrats have filed a lawsuit demanding the agency turn over videos of each presentation.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess gave the DOJ until midday Friday to release the videos. But he said an appeal before the deadline arrives would trigger an automatic stay until Monday morning, when he would hold a hearing to decide whether to extend the stay or order the videos released.

Assistant Attorney General Anthony Russomanno told Niess that the DOJ almost certainly will appeal. A Niess decision to extend the stay likely would ensure the videos aren't released for weeks or months, depriving Democrats of what they hope could be a potent weapon against Schimel, who is locked in a tight race with Democrat Susan Happ.

Mike Bauer, an attorney for the Democratic Party, said the party got tips that Schimel made offensive remarks during presentations in 2013, 2012, 2010 and 2009.

Democrats filed an open records request with the DOJ in September seeking videos of each of his presentations from those sessions. The agency denied the request last week.

DOJ officials said they couldn't find three of the videos. They did locate a recording from 2009 in which Schimel discusses strategies for prosecuting online child sex predators and one from 2013 that features him talking about how he handled the victims in a high-profile case involving a man who posed as a female on Facebook in 2008.

The man, Anthony Stancl, convinced at least 31 boys to send him naked pictures of themselves, which he in turn used to blackmail them into performing sex acts on him. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2010.

The DOJ said releasing the videos from Schimel's presentations would reveal law enforcement strategy and compromise victim privacy, prompting the Democrats' lawsuit.

Niess said he viewed the two training seminar videos in private and saw nothing unusual, at one point remarking that they made his eyes glaze over.

He heard nothing new about law enforcement's strategies in the 2009 video, saying most of the tactics Schimel discussed have been shown repeatedly on television shows such as "To Catch a Predator." Technology has changed so much over the last five years that the video is essentially obsolete, he added.

As for the 2013 video, the judge noted that Schimel spoke about lessons he learned in dealing with victims that everyone could use in their lives. Schimel didn't identify any specific victims, the case already has been widely publicized and parents could use Schimel's information to better protect their children, he said.