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November 30, 2007

Long sentences for a midwestern variation on a modern Rodney King episode

A helpful reader sent me news of this notable federal sentencing story from Wisconsin:

Three fired Milwaukee police officers were sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms today for the beating of Frank Jude Jr. Jon Bartlett, was sentenced to 17 years and four months. Daniel Masarik and Andrew Spengler were each sentenced to more than 15 years....

Bartlett said he had been overwhelmed by everything that had happened since the October 2004 beating and was afraid for his future in explaining his subsequent actions of phoning in bomb threats and trying to buy firearms and ammunition. While he said he accepts responsibility for his actions, he continued to deny that he shoved a pen into Jude's ear. He said he's lost his house, his cars, his motorcycles, his pet, every material object in his life and has been divorced by his wife.  He said that the time he has spent in jail he used to examine his life and has found God and reconnected with his family.....

Bartlett, 36, Masarik, 27, and Spengler, 28, were convicted after a nearly three-week trial in July of conspiring to violate the civil rights of Jude and his friend Harris and of assaulting Jude while acting as officers.  The assaults happened outside an off-duty officers' party at Spengler's house in 2004.  Four other former officers pleaded guilty to federal charges. Two have been sentenced and two are set to be sentenced Dec. 6.  It is the largest criminal prosecution of police officers in modern Milwaukee history.

A state jury acquitted Bartlett, Masarik and Spengler on all but one count in May 2006, setting the stage for a federal investigation — and eventually an indictment — a year ago.  Bartlett, Spengler and Masarik have been jailed since their convictions.  Bartlett already was being held because of two earlier unrelated felony convictions.

Jude, who is biracial, and Harris, who is black, both said their white attackers used racial slurs. From the outset, the investigation was poorly handled.  Suspect officers were allowed to talk with each other or leave the scene, little physical evidence was collected and investigators said they ran into silence from officers who claimed they saw nothing.  Several of those officers later admitted their guilt in the case when the FBI investigated.

November 30, 2007 at 10:41 AM | Permalink


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Is it really fair to compare this assault with Rodney King's? This assault was unprovoked. Rodney King's assault happened after King led police on a chase etc. etc. This assault was far worse.

I wonder, if, in light of this crime and punishment, civil rights leaders will push for the federal prosecution of those involved in the Long Beach hate crime.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 30, 2007 10:49:20 AM

I'm usually against long sentences, but I think that the sentences seem reasonable. I don't know exactly to what extent was everyone involved, but this was an unprovoked attack, and a clear case of police brutality. These people believed that because they were officers they could get away with anything, and their buddies obviously tried to cover up for them. The physical and psychological damage that the victims suffered merit long sentences.

Posted by: EJ | Nov 30, 2007 12:11:30 PM

federalist: it was the state acquittals and the subsequent federal criminal prosecution that really drew me to this case as a King redux. In addition, since the cops here got roughly 3 times what the King crowd got, your instincts about relative seriousness are certainly reflected in the sentences.

Posted by: Doug B. | Nov 30, 2007 12:20:43 PM

Doug, I figured that. This was a pretty nasty attack. Sentences seem about right to me. I will note that they are more than the sentences received by Lemrick Nelson, for those of us who like to whine about the relative sentences received by criminals.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 30, 2007 2:31:47 PM

So the black cops get more time than the white cops, (Rodney King)Umm,I wondered what this mean?

Posted by: | Nov 30, 2007 5:45:28 PM

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