Conservative Outlet Sues For Wisconsin Parole Records

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A conservative Wisconsin news outlet sued the Wisconsin Parole Commission on Monday, alleging that it has refused to comply with open records requests made earlier this year.

Wisconsin Right Now has been publishing a series of articles highlighting violent offenders who have received parole under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration.

A reporter for the outlet in May requested lists of all offenders who have been granted parole, release or early release since 2019, when Evers appointed John Tate as chairman of the commission. The commission sent a list of offenders released through 2021 and said in June that it would provide more recent information as it became available. According to the lawsuit, the commission did not respond to further communications or provide that information.

The commission and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to messages left Monday.

Tate stepped down from his role in June at Evers' request after the decision to parole a man who served less than 25 years of an 80-year sentence for stabbing his wife to death angered the victim's family and drew criticism from Republicans in the state.

Parole has remained an important issue in the governor's race this year, with Republican candidate Tim Michels calling on Evers last week to halt all paroles, even though such an action is outside the governor's power and some paroles are mandated by law. The parole commission, which operates independently of the governor, has granted about 460 discretionary paroles not required by law, something that both Republican and Democratic administrations before Evers also routinely granted.

“The Parole Commission’s unreasonable and unexplained delay in providing responsive records is unlawful, and we will pursue every legal angle on behalf of Wisconsin Right Now until the requested records have been turned over,” said Lucas Vebber, an attorney for conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is representing Wisconsin Right Now.

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Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.