Skip to comments.Expect tire-slashing charges Monday (Milwaukee)
Posted on 01/23/2005 8:03:05 AM PST by Jean S
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The investigation into the Great Tire-Slashing Caper will end Monday with felony charges against the adult sons of two prominent Milwaukee politicians - U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and former Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt.
Sources close to the 83-day-old probe said Sowande Omokunde, Michael Pratt and three other paid Democratic activists will each be charged with a single felony count of criminal damage to property, legalese for vandalism.
Omokunde, also known as Supreme Solar Allah, is the 25-year-old son of the rookie congresswoman. Pratt, 32, worked on Kerry's local campaign, which was chaired by his father.
Pratt, Omokunde and the other staffers will be accused of cutting the tires of some 20 vans and cars rented by the state Republican Party to usher the party faithful to and from the polls on election day. The charges will state that the damage to the vehicles was well in excess of $2,500 - the minimum required to merit a felony.
Expect a gaggle of reporters and photographers for the Monday morning news conference by District Attorney E. Michael McCann to announce the charges and for an initial court appearance by the soon-to-be defendants in the early afternoon.
Omokunde's lawyer, Robin Shellow, confirmed she's been told her client will be charged Monday. "It is my understanding that it's scheduled for 1:30," she said about the court appearance, declining further comment.
Other Democrats who have been arrested and released by police but not charged are: Lewis Gibson Caldwell III, 28, and Lavelle Mohammad, 35, both of Milwaukee; and Justin J. Howell, 20, of Racine.
Caldwell's lawyer, Craig Mastantuono, said he also has been told by the DA's office that his guy would be charged on Monday. Sources indicated that the criminal complaint also will name Mohammad and Howell.
Lawyers for the other suspects could not be reached or declined to comment.
Sources said that with McCann's decision to file felony charges, it is highly unlikely that U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic would also hit the suspects with a federal complaint. Those insiders said it is rare for the feds to pile on charges that would be very similar to those filed by local authorities.
The slashings and the lengthy investigation by local cops and the FBI have been the talk of the town for a couple of months. McCann, a Democrat, has been under fire from Republicans for the time he's taken to press charges against the Democratic activists.
The police probe started on the morning of Nov. 2, when officials discovered that vandals had shredded about two dozen tires on 20 vehicles rented by the state GOP. The vehicles were parked in the 7100 block of W. Capitol Drive.
That night, police arrested Opel Simmons III, a veteran Democratic activist who was in town drumming up support for U.S. Sen. John Kerry's failed presidential campaign. Simmons, who was held by Milwaukee authorities for two days, is back in Virginia and is not expected to be charged, sources said.
As part of the case, FBI agents interviewed witnesses in four states from New York to Georgia, though none of those out-of-staters is expected to be charged. Those Democrats were also here to help with the Kerry effort.
Sources say that investigators caught a break in the case because the slashings quickly became the talk of the Kerry headquarters on the morning of Nov. 2.
"People came back and bragged about what they did," said one source.
Added a second: "Ultimately, they didn't see this as a badge of shame that they needed to hide from their co-workers."
But nothing in this case is as simple as it first appears.
Look for the defense lawyers to use the classic "some other dudes did it" defense - pointing an accusing finger at the out-of-staters, who are expected to be the star witnesses for the prosecution.
Making things even dicier is the lack of damning physical evidence. "There will be a strong suggestion on the defense part that the people who are (making the accusations) may have slashed the tires themselves," said one lawyer familiar with the case.
On top of everything else, this case has garnered national attention because two of the suspects come from politically connected Democratic families and because the tires were sliced up supposedly to prevent Republicans from getting to the polls.
No doubt, with Monday's charges, it will remain in the spotlight.
"It's like when you slash the tires of the police chief," explained one law enforcement type. "It's much more than the slashing. It's why did you do it. It makes the same act more serious."
At the same time, another lawyer suggested that everyone keep things in perspective. This, after all, is not a murder case.
"These aren't just ordinary tires," the lawyer cracked. "These are tires that had their civil rights violated."
One gets the sense that these reporters approved of this incident.
Just a resume enhancement for 4 future Democrat politicians from Milwaukee.
I still think they will plea bargain it down to a misdemeanor before it's over.
Hopefully these crooked dems get the book thrown at them.
Other news from Wisconsin.
Imagine if the Bush twins pulled a stunt like this.
These reporters are fair.
Isn't this an attempt to interfere with people's right to vote?
To stop them voting? That sounds like felony to me.
This isn't just a frivolous tire slashing.
I looked up on the court case search and didn't find Gwen's son's name. Are there other spellings?
Some of these names sound like Jihad in America in action.
I agree, but generally politicians don't file felony charges against other politicians kids, because after the next election it may be their kid or grandkid that needs help.
I'll take your word for it. I'm not used to fair reporters here in Houston.
We don't have too many of them either. IMO, they're kind of middle of the road.
'Bout time they started doing just that. Until then, this nonsense will continue. I sure would love it if AG Gonzales put vote fraud among his top agenda items.
Is it just me, or does this sound like a brand name for a tin-foil hat?
Supreme Solar Allah (AKA Something Umpronouncable) should plead "not guilty by reason of insanity". Anyone who's momma gave him a name like his birth name is likely to be nuttier than a fruitcake.
"Supreme Solar Allah"? LOL! An example of what Bill Cosby was talking about.
Sounds like a great family Congressperson Gwen has there.
I say life without parole.
Perhaps "political beliefs" needs to be added to the Constitutional protections of race/religion/color AND NOW sexual practices.
It will be the only way to see hate crimes laws applied against Democrat brownshirts who attack Republicans.
"legalese for vandalism"
Are there any WI lawyers in here that can confirm that criminal damage to property and vandalism are the same thing? I thought criminal damage was a more serious offense. The authors are trying to downplay the seriousness of the charge.