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Lawyer, ex-DA gets jail term

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Ellsworth,Wisconsin 54011 http://www.piercecountyherald.com/sites/all/themes/piercecountyherald_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Lawyer, ex-DA gets jail term
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

A long-time Pierce County lawyer, convicted on his third and fourth drunk driving charges, was sentenced last Thursday to 185 days in jail and fined $3,864.

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Warren Lee Brandt, 55, Prescott, who was Pierce County district attorney in 1983 and 1984, is to begin serving his sentence Oct. 27. Monroe County Judge Michael McAlpine also approved a plan to allow Brandt to pay his fine at the rate of $100 a month and revoked his driver's license for 36 months.

The sentence was nearly twice the time originally recommended by District Attorney John O'Boyle after Brandt pleaded no contest to driving drunk on Feb. 2, 2005 and March 14, 2005.

McAlpine's sentencing decision was apparently influenced by a letter from Polk County Judge Molly Galewyrick, who reported that Brandt admitted drinking beer during a divorce trial lunch break two weeks ago.

Judge Galewyrick wrote that two other attorneys told her Brandt smelled of alcohol during the afternoon of the trial. He told her he had had a beer with his lunch.

"In my opinion, Mr. Brandt did not appear impaired," wrote Galewyrick. "However, his behavior is professionally inappropriate and may well constitute a violation of his bond."

"Sobriety, I'm convinced, is not failing to consume alcohol for 18 months and then have a beer during a heated custody trial," said Judge McAlpine, explaining his sentence.

O'Boyle said he had agreed to recommend an 85-day jail sentence, but that was before seeing the letter from the Polk County judge.

That letter, said O'Boyle, calls into question Brandt's progress in treatment programs.

Brandt had two drunk driving convictions in the mid-1990s and two more within weeks of one another in early 2005.

O'Boyle said police stopped Brandt on the fourth drunk driving charge the same day he appeared for a court hearing on the third charge.

When he was stopped that day, Brandt told officers he was on his way to treatment and he was, responded attorney Timothy O'Brien.

The defense attorney said Brandt had already gone through an alcohol assessment "because he realized there were problems in his life."

O'Brien said Brandt has sought the help of a psychologist, a psychiatrist and an alcoholism treatment counselor and is cooperating with an Office of Lawyer Regulation investigation.

He said during 2005 Brandt learned that a long-time employee had embezzled as much as $100,000 from him and hadn't paid his firm's income taxes, leaving Brandt owing the Internal Revenue Service nearly $90,000.

Along with the stress of those debts, Brandt is paying for two children to attend private colleges and is legally separated from his wife, said O'Brien.

He said Brandt's drinking the day of the Polk County trial was not a violation of his bond. "(But) it certainly was not good judgment - we understand that."

O'Brien said Brandt has been through an outpatient treatment program, is in after-care, continues to be treated for depression, attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly and has joined an attorney support group for alcoholism.

"It's a tough disease, and when you throw depression and other issues on top of it, it can be devastating," said O'Brien. "If he doesn't stop drinking and doesn't straighten out what's going on in the rest of his life, 95 days in jail is going to pale in comparison to what else is going to happen in his life."

"The crime was driving impaired and the damage that imposes and the risk, and I know better," said Brandt speaking on his own behalf.

He said he is remorseful, adding, "I've done everything I could possibly do to address the circumstances."

"I never really enjoyed drinking. It's a medication," said Brandt. "Alcohol was a means of dealing with stress."

He said he was devastated to learn that an employee and a person he considered "a true friend" had been stealing from him and that the taxes hadn't been paid.

"I was working night and day, night and day seven days a week to make money to keep everything afloat. I was exhausted when that occurred," said Brandt of the period before the fourth drunk driving arrest.

Despite officers' reports that he had tried to obstruct them, he pulled his vehicle over when he realized he had been speeding, said Brandt.

"They hunted me down like a dog, but I'm notorious here," said Brandt of officers' reports that they finally found him slouched behind a fence and a bush.

"The issue of driving impaired is never going to happen again. The issue of my practice -- I'm hoping to get through this," said Brandt.

He added, "I'm 55 years old and I need to change."

"Today is really a start in what is going to happen for the rest of your life," responded McAlpine. "You are still a young man."

"Alcohol has really diminished your life," said the judge. But more importantly, he said, it has hurt Brandt's relationship with his wife and his ability to attend to his business.

"Unfortunately you did not learn from the prior experiences that you had," said Judge McAlpine. He said that failure put Brandt's wife and children in difficult positions.

"Every time a mother or father goes to jail, in this sense the family goes to jail with them," McAlpine told Brandt. The judge warned Brandt that his wife and children will wake up every day remembering their husband and father is in jail. "I hope you realize they pay a considerable price."

McAlpine sentenced Brandt to 95 days in jail on the third conviction and 185 on the fourth, but said the sentences can run concurrently. He also approved Brandt's request to serve the term in Polk County as long as there is no cost to Pierce County.

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