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Wis. AG hopeful cited for drunken driving in 1990

  • Article by: TODD RICHMOND
  • Associated Press
  • January 8, 2014 - 4:41 PM

MADISON, Wis. — A Republican prosecutor looking to become Wisconsin's next attorney general was cited nearly 24 years ago for drunken driving, his campaign said Wednesday.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel was cited in May 1990 in Milwaukee County for first-offense drunken driving. Schimel, 48, said he made a mistake when he was young, pleaded guilty and took responsibility for his actions. He has worked to fight drunken driving as a prosecutor, he added.

"I continue to work each day to help others learn from my experience," Schimel said in a statement his campaign released.

Schimel hasn't been cited for drunken driving or driven drunk since, his campaign consultant, Darrin Schmitz, said.

Word of Schimel's citation comes just a day after he said he was skeptical of criminalizing first-offense drunken driving, saying such a move would jam the courts and result in forfeitures flowing to the state rather than municipalities. That loss of revenue would force local leaders to lay off police, resulting in more drunken driving going undetected, he said.

Wisconsin is the only state that treats first-offense drunken driving as a civil violation akin to a speeding ticket rather than a crime.

Schimel got into the attorney general race in October after incumbent Republican J.B. Van Hollen abruptly announced he wouldn't run for re-election. Democrats Jon Richards, a state representative from Milwaukee, and Ismael Ozanne, Dane County's district attorney, have since jumped into the race, too.

Richards issued a statement Wednesday saying he was disappointed that Schimel wasn't more forthcoming about the citation and he hopes Schimel will join him in pushing for Legislature to strengthen the state's drunken driving laws. Ozanne's campaign declined to comment.

State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate issued a statement Wednesday calling Schimel's remarks that harsher drunken driving penalties would lead to police layoffs "ridiculous." Tate also chided Schimel for "omitting" that he himself had been cited for drunken driving.

"Drunk driving is a critical public safety issue," Tate said. "Wisconsinites deserve a top law enforcement officer who is open and honest about how best to address it."

© 2014 Star Tribune