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Dane County's Double Standard On Death Threats


Dane County's Double Standard On Death Threats

CREATED Aug 2, 2012

If it wasn't so serious and outrageous, it would be laughable.  But it is ... so it's not.

On Wednesday, a Federal grand jury based in Madison returned an indictment against a guy named William Diedrich. Diedrich allegedly made over 100 threatening phone calls to state Democratic Party Headquarters between January and May.  During his calls, Diedrich supposedly threatened to blow up the Democrats' office and shoot Democrats walking around the state Capitol square.

Let me be clear.  I have no problem with these charges.  This is serious criminal misconduct and if guilty, Diedrich deserves to be punished severely.

But what about Katherine Windels?

In March of 2011, Katherine Windels (using a false name) e-mailed death threats to then-Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and various other Republican legislators.  Among other things, the e-mails said that bombs had been planted in various locations and that the legislators (and their families) were going to be killed. 

In contrast to the Diedrich case, the Windels case was not handled by Eric Holder's United States Attorney's Office.  Rather the matter was disposed of through the increasingly notorious Dane County's District's Attorney's Office. 

For those keeping score, Windels was allowed to plead guilty to making a bomb threat and was placed in a first-offenders program.  In other words, if Windels completes the program, the charge will be dismissed and her record will remain clean!

Do you think the U.S. Attorney's Office will dispose of the Diedrich case in the same fashion?  I don't know for sure - but I wouldn't hold my breath.

There is always a lot of prosecutorial discretion that goes into deciding whether federal or state prosecutors should handle a particular case.  In this regard, Diedrich's conduct is serious and certainly deserves Federal prosecution.  However, I think you can say exactly the same thing about the Windels case. 

There's nothing that says one case can't go Federal while a similar case goes through State courts.  Still, it appears that the only real difference between these two matters is that Diedrich threatened Democrats - and thereby landed in Federal court.  On the other hand, Windels threatened Republicans - and she got a wrist slap in State court.

Call it Dane County's not-so-subtle double standard on death threats.