Friday, November 28, 2008

Crook seeking compensation for Wisconsin wrongful conviction

Sounds like he is benefiting from a technicality

A Cazenovia man is asking the Wisconsin Claims Board for $22,797 to compensate him for the 19 months he spent in prison on a wrongful conviction. The error was compounded, John A. Rupp alleges, when officials delayed releasing him for six weeks in 2005 after the 4th District Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed his conviction.

Although Rupp has a long history of committing crimes including theft by contractor and burglary, he is innocent of the crime that sent him to prison and thus is owed compensation under state law, his attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, said in an interview after the board's meeting Thursday at the State Capitol. Wisconsin allows wrongfully imprisoned defendants up to $5,000 a year in compensation along with attorneys' fees and other expenses. A decision on Rupp's petition is due Nov. 26.

The claim involves a 2000 Juneau County case in which Rupp, now 46, was convicted of embezzlement as a habitual criminal and a second count of theft by false representation for allegedly failing to complete a home construction project for a client after she'd paid him. A jury found him guilty of both charges, and Juneau County Circuit Judge John Brady sentenced Rupp to six years in prison on the embezzlement charge and probation on the second charge.

On Feb. 15, 2005, the appeals court reversed Rupp's embezzlement conviction, ruling that the money Rupp was convicted of stealing became his own once the client paid him. "Because Mr. Rupp was the owner of the money, he could not have used it without his own consent and therefore must be innocent of theft," the petition said. "Mr. Rupp cannot be guilty of embezzling his own money."

At the time of the decision, Rupp was part-way through his sentence on the embezzlement charge. It took officials until March 24, 2005 to release him — roughly six weeks. Louise Schultz, Juneau County's clerk of courts, said John Roemer, the assistant district attorney who'd prosecuted Rupp, became the Juneau County judge assigned to the case. That conflict prompted the district court administrator to appoint another judge, who ordered Rupp's release.

Although the state didn't oppose Rupp's request for compensation at Thursday's meeting, Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth argued in a written response to the petition that Rupp should be awarded less than the $10,000 he was seeking since he spent less than two full years in prison on the overturned charge. Southworth also noted Rupp was convicted on a second count related to the same incident. And he said the case was prosecuted in "good faith."

Olson said the conviction on the second charge is irrelevant since it resulted in only probation, not a prison term. And the prosecutor's intentions don't matter, he said. "A wrongful conviction is a wrongful conviction," said Olson.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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