From Scold-and-Release district attorneys and judges to Homeland Security and ICE – it’s not just criminals breaking the law, it’s our government.
Founding Father John Adams called a republic “a government of laws, not of men,” referencing the work of 17th century English political theorist John Harrington. The concept is simple: a government of laws means reasonable laws are applied fairly to all, while a government of men means the exercise of political power for the betterment of some at the expense of others.
Watching the recent actions of our state Supreme Court in exercising power they don’t have, flouting the constitution to further a political agenda, it’s clear that we are now living in a government of men. It goes far beyond our state’s high court.
- Scold-and-Release DAs are legislating instead of prosecuting, effectively rewriting statutes in their jurisdictions by choosing which laws they will enforce and which they will ignore.
- Criminals are emboldened and public safety is undermined by the justice system’s failure to enforce the law.
- There is so little coverage of these failures in the mainstream media that the public believes they understand the laws and that they are being enforced. But they’re wrong on both counts.
- Local law enforcement officers in some jurisdictions help protect and hide lawbreakers from federal law enforcement.
- Federal agencies have created policies and programs to end-run laws they find inconvenient or conflict with their political goals.
This is Part 1 of a closer look at how the comparatively unremarkable case of a 20-year-old man recently arrested in Milwaukee in a stolen car with stolen goods and illegal drugs demonstrates just how far we’ve strayed from “a government of laws, not of men.”
The Hernandez-Meraz Case
Wisconsin Right Now broke the story last week about the case of Alan Hernandez-Meraz.
Hernandez-Meraz, 20, was arrested in Milwaukee on July 23rd by River Hills police who were investigating a burglary and car theft from the previous day. They found him asleep in the stolen vehicle (keys in his pocket), along with the stolen driver’s license of the owner, meth, and items stolen in a previous burglary in Racine.
Racine has a warrant out for Hernandez-Meraz for car theft, burglary and bail jumping.
Hernandez-Meraz also has an open case from November 2022 in Waukesha County on cocaine and marijuana charges, and WRN found he was being held in the Waukesha County Jail, on an ICE immigration hold. (He remains there as of this morning.)
Based on CCAP records Hernandez-Miraz was in Waukesha court in the afternoon on July 27th which is the same day the Racine charges were filed. Which was only five days after the River Hills burglary and car theft. Hernandez-Meraz had a big week.
Initially, Milwaukee County DA Chisholm’s office said they would not charge Hernandez-Meraz in relation to the River Hills arrest. Not with burglary, auto theft, driving a car without the owner’s consent, possession of stolen property, or drug possession. They planned to issue no charges at all.
But after the WRN story, the DA’s office flip-flopped and filed charges.
The charges filed were – for the suspect caught IN a stolen car, with the keys, other stolen items, and illegal drugs – were only a single misdemeanor charge of receiving or concealing stolen property valued less than $2,500.
One might expect that Hernandez-Meraz may have been charged with theft or meth possession or, since the Waukesha court prohibited him from using or possessing controlled substances, a bail jumping charge – or all of the above.
But as we’ve previously reported, in 2020, 6 in 10 felony cases the police recommended for prosecution in Milwaukee were not charged by the DA, so it’s no surprise Chisholm initially declined to charge Hernandez-Meraz, or that he issued such a minimal charge when his hand was forced. Between refusing to press charges, absurdly low bail, increasing numbers of dismissals and plea bargains, the Milwaukee County DA has dismal, and worsening, stats on bringing criminals to justice.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum just released a new report assessing crime, arrest, and prosecution trends in Milwaukee County just days before Wisconsin Right Now began reporting on Chisholm’s refusal to charge Hernandez-Meraz.
Justice Miscarried in Milwaukee
The report, Under Pressure, funded in part by the Milwaukee Community Justice Council (which continues to meet virtually “as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”), identifies lingering stress from the pandemic as a cause of problems in the Milwaukee County justice system. While the report set out to look at the impacts of COVID-19 on the justice system, it revealed many of the troubling trends had begun long before the pandemic.
In Milwaukee County, serious offenses are up but arrests are down, referrals for charges are down, and charges against those arrested are down, and sentences are down:
- Serious offenses (murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, vehicle theft, etc.) are up 4% between 2018 and 2022.
- Arrests for those same serous offenses during the same time frame are down 27% and referrals to the DA for charges dropped 14% between 2015 and 2022.
- The rate of referrals that result in charges dropped. Overall, the charge rate was 46% 2015-2019, and dropped to just 34% in 2022. This includes both charges for misdemeanors and felonies. In 2015, felony charges were issued in 46% of referrals; in 2022 that was down to under 40%. Misdemeanors were charged in 51% of referrals; in 2022 that was down to 34%.
- Cases filed by the DA with the Circuit Court are 23% lower than in 2019.
Even though serious crime is up, the rate of charges has declined precipitously. For the criminal suspects who are caught and arrested, only about a third of those committing misdemeanors are charged, and fewer than 2 in 5 of those arrested for felonies face charges.
Troubling as that is, it’s not the end of the story; in cases where there were charges filed, dismissals have increased, and sentences have dropped.
- Dismissals of felonies are 9% higher in 2022 than in 2017.
- Misdemeanor dismissals were 10% higher in 2022 than in 2017.
- Sentences, which had already been falling under Chisholm prior to the pandemic continued to plummet – down 48% from 2015 to 2022.
- State prison sentences are down 16% in 2022 compared to 2019.
- Local jail sentences in 2022 are down 66% compared to 2015.
This means that of the diminishing number of suspects charged in increasing numbers of crimes, more of them see their cases dismissed and fewer face sentences.
For Alan Hernandez-Meraz, being arrested in Milwaukee is a much smaller deal than being arrested in other jurisdictions. Waukesha has had him in court for drug crimes; Racine put out a warrant for his arrest for car theft; Milwaukee wouldn’t have charged him at all but for WRN’s reporting. The single, almost laughable misdemeanor charge Milwaukee issued shows another problem that’s difficult to quantify and track and the Policy Forum report didn’t tackle: how often the charges in Milwaukee fall far short of reflecting the crimes committed.
Scold-and Release Prosecutors
Chisholm is part of a larger group of rogue, progressive prosecutors across the country – a government of men – who are redefining what’s legal and what’s not, not by convincing legislatures to change statutes, but by only selectively, according to their political agendas and their values, charging and prosecuting those arrested for crimes.
For example, meth possession may be a crime in Wisconsin statute, but if Chisholm won’t charge suspects like Hernandez-Meraz who are arrested in possession of meth, for all intents and purposes it is no longer a crime in Milwaukee.
This is part of a national progressive playbook to use so-called prosecutorial discretion to end-run legislatures.
It’s simply cheaper and easier for deep-pockets donors on the left to elect DAs who will refuse to prosecute crimes, than it is to elect numerous sympathetic legislators – and governors – to change the criminal statutes. And that’s what rogue prosecutors do: refuse to prosecute.
- Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg downgraded 52% of felony cases to misdemeanors in his first year in office, when that rate never remained below 40% in the previous decade. And Bragg declined to prosecute 35% more felony cases than three years prior.
- Chicago DA Kim Foxx dropped all charges against 30% of felony defendants in her first three years as prosecutor, a rate more than 50% higher than her Democrat predecessor.
- The US Attorney’s office in Washington DC, which prosecutes local crimes just as a district attorney does, in addition to federal cases in US court, declined to prosecute 67% of felony arrests last year.
More than a dozen states have introduced bills to crack down on rogue prosecutors.
- Texas legislation to remove from office DAs who institute policies of non-prosecution for certain crimes was signed into law in June.
- A new Georgia law that allows discipline and removal of prosecutors by a commission for things like non-prosecution is being challenged by prosecutors (who apparently are interested in taking at least some things to court).
- Missouri is considering a bill to allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in any city where the homicide rate is over 35 per 100,000 residents (aimed at crime-torn St. Louis), while an ouster-effort by the state A.G. forced Soros-backed St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner to resign in May.
Still other states have used existing statutes to attempt to remove rogue prosecutors.
- The Pennsylvania House voted to impeach Philadelphia DA Krasner for failure to prosecute, and not adequately notifying crime victims of appropriate information; the impeachment trial in the state senate is on hold pending appeal.
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has used his authority to remove one prosecutor for promising not to enforce the state’s abortion or gender mutilation laws and suspended another.
Congress is trying, and voters are trying:
- Voters in hyper-progressive San Francisco recalled DA Chesa Boudin, who eliminated cash bail and all but stopped prosecuting drug dealers. But recalls against others have failed.
- A bill introduced in congress would require DAs to report violent crimes they fail to charge or risk losing federal funding. Wisconsin Representatives Tiffany and Fitzgerald are co-sponsors of the “Prosecutors Need to Prosecute” bill.
The war these rogue prosecutors are waging on law and order is having a monumentally negative impact on justice. Selective non-prosecution in their jurisdictions empowers criminals, hijacks the legislative process, and results in unequal access to justice. Public safety suffers in a vicious cycle:
- Police are disincentivized to arrest suspects if it’s clear most of the time they won’t be charged.
- Witnesses, who also are aware most suspects will be released without charges, become less willing to testify.
- Victims are less likely to report crimes for similar reasons.
- Criminals are quick to realize that in some jurisdictions they will not face the same charges or sentences they would in others.
- Car theft is proliferating in Milwaukee County – up over 106% in 5 years.
- In the rest of the state that increase is under 16%.
But Scold-and-Release prosecutors are committed to a government of men, where they are free to allow their personal values and politics trump the law. They believe that legislatures – the bodies that make the laws prosecutors are elected to enforce – have no business telling them what to do, that enforcing laws on the books is racist, that communities are safer if fewer criminals are prosecuted, and that the old-fashioned notion of law and order is an assault on democracy.
Hernandez-Meraz Plays and the Public Pays
Hernandez-Meraz, at only 20 years of age now has had at least 3 sets of charges leveled against him in different jurisdictions, and likely one other arrest that did not result in charges. He repeatedly failed to appear in court and forfeited bond, has had multiple arrest warrants issued, he is noncompliant with the pretrial supervision program, he’s had bench warrants issued for him, and he has forfeited bail. Taxpayers are footing the bill for all of his justice involvement, including his lawyers.
The crimes Alan Hernandez-Meraz is suspected and accused of, and those he is charged with – drugs, car theft, burglary – are not violent.
While the left believes holding criminals responsible for non-violent crimes makes them commit more crimes; the Hernandez-Meraz case (along with countless others) gives lie to that assertion. Hernandez-Meraz has yet to be held responsible for a single crime and the lack of consequences seems to be spurring him on rather than deterring him.
In addition to the Waukesha, Racine and Milwaukee open cases, WRN found there is reportedly another, earlier arrest of Hernandez-Meraz in Milwaukee County which was not charged.
That information could only be found through an open records request – which can be delayed and denied even when someone knows to ask – because the only publicly available tool to look at criminal cases, the Consolidated Court Automation Program (CCAP) has not been expanded. Justice system officials of all partisan stripes have successfully convinced the legislature to keep it difficult for the public to access information about the records of officials – and criminals – as it relates to plea bargains, dismissals, failure to file charges, etc.
We do not know if Hernandez-Meraz has a juvenile record. Moreover, we don’t know if he participated in a diversion or deferred prosecution program for past offenses because – by design – those programs seek to prevent “collateral consequences” for offenders like having the crime information entered in CCAP where the public may easily learn about it. Deferred Prosecution Programs accept offenders with prior convictions, who accept “meaningful responsibility” for their behavior.
(Note on Deferred Prosecution Programs: Dane County even runs a Child Abuse Deferred Prosecution Program for caregivers who intentionally physically abuse a child. They say the program will “protect children” and “reduce racial disparities” by providing abusers an “opportunity to avoid a felony conviction” and the accompanying inconveniences that “disproportionately affect people of color.” Offenders eligible for the program can even have repeat child protective services referrals for similar conduct, although torture is a rule-out.)
The Company You Keep: Hernandez-Meraz’ Associates
The 2022 Waukesha case where Hernandez-Meraz faces charges for cocaine and marijuana, is linked to the case of another man, Gregorio Garcia-Lopez, who is facing a jury trial (ordered last week) related to that incident. Garcia-Lopez is represented by a public defender on felony charges for meth, possession of THC and paraphernalia.
Excuse-makers on the left might speculate that the drugs were part of a money-making venture he was forced into, to pay the over $11,000 in welfare “overpayments” Garcia-Lopez owes the Department of Children and Families. Regardless of his reasons, Garcia-Lopez also shows little interest in keeping on the right side of the law. Just 2 months after the Waukesha arrest he was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and discharging a firearm while intoxicated in Milwaukee for which he is seeking a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) to keep the charges off his record.
That DPA hearing will be before Judge Hannah Dugan who, as we reported earlier this month, campaigned for office on her values. (Dugan is also the judge assigned to the Hernandez-Meraz Milwaukee misdemeanor case.) Garcia-Lopez was granted the DPA hearing even though he has not been compliant with Justice Point supervision and is facing a jury trial on felony charges in Waukesha that will start after the deferred prosecution agreement is decided. The rush is likely by design to get a DPA from Judge Hannah-and-Her-Values before a potential guilty verdict in the Waukesha trial.
Will There Be Federal Consequences?
Hernandez-Meraz appears to be adept at getting drugs, stealing cars, robbing homes, hanging with criminals, and evading consequences while we foot the bill.
But there’s one thing about his current status that seems like it might make a difference in whether he will face consequences: the ICE hold.
In Part 2 we will continue the look at the Hernandez-Meraz case and how it may play out in a federal government is also increasingly one of men.