Wally's Story: An Exposé

by Vickie Wessel

Foreword

My son Wally was around the age of twelve when, while having a conversation, he said to me "If I had to go to prison to make the world a better place, I would go to prison." It is something that I will never forget. I was so proud of him, he had so much compassion and love for his fellow man that he would be willing to give up his freedom to help others. He had a heart of gold. Little did we know what the future had to hold.

It is my hope, that in some way, telling his story will make a difference. It is the last thing that I can do for my son. Not only to clear his name but also to hopefully affect change in the Wisconsin and our Criminal Justice System in general. In order to tell Wally's story, I had to piece together physical documents such as transcripts of the police reports, hearings leading up to his trial, as well as the trial itself, and the appeal process. Each reader can judge for themselves if Wally was guilty of the crime for which he was convicted or the victim of a horribly unjust system.


I don't remember the exact date in March of 2012 that the summons came to our home for Wally, but what I remember most distinctly is that I was worried. Wally had been getting into some trouble skipping school and smoking pot. Pretty much the normal rebellious teenage things with one of a more serious nature of breaking into a car with some friends and stealing from that car. Please don't think that I am dismissing these charges as minuscule because that is not the case. He made mistakes, admitted to his mistakes, was willing to pay for them, and by doing so he hoped to move on with his life as many people do every day. That is exactly what he was doing when the summons came in the mail, working hard and getting his life back on track. He was seventeen at the time and due to the previous events, I'll admit that I was worried. I read the summons and the criminal complaint. The charges were from a crime that was committed a little over a year prior. I looked at the date and checked to see if my son had been in the area on the date in question. He had. My heart sunk. However, after reading the criminal complaint and the statements from the witnesses, I noticed that they didn't really align with one another or what I had been told about that night. I decided to start my own investigation contacting the friends that I knew he had been with that day. If he were guilty, he would have to face the music as he for had for his other recent indiscretions. The information I was given from those friends didn't match what was in the complaint, either.

Along with getting timelines from his friends, I remembered this day well. This was the first time that Wally hadn't come home for the night and I was out of my mind. I had spoken to him the night of March 15, 2011, after I had called around to his friends to find him. He didn't have a cell phone at that time because it had been taken away for skipping school. When I spoke to him, he stated that he would be home, but did not follow through. I was furious. I found him early in the morning at one of the witness' homes. I had spoken to the boy's mother prior to picking him up letting her know how furious I was that she would not call me to see if Wally should have been there. She simply told me that sometime after 9pm Wally showed up with DB (her son) and DB stating that Wally didn't have a place to stay that night. I told her that was not the case and she should have contacted me either way. I then drove to her home to pick up my son. When I got there, I found my son sleeping on a wood floor in his clothes. I woke him up and told him to put his shoes on so we could go home as I still had to get to work.

Other than that, we didn't really speak until we got into the car. Once in the car, I started yelling, telling him how worried I had been and that he needed to listen and come home. He said to me, "Mom I didn't do anything wrong; I just didn't come home." I was very angry at that statement. I couldn't understand how he could think that making me worry like that was okay and I tried to make that clear to him. I hadn't noticed anything, nor had I been told anything, to suggest that he had done anything other than spend the night. I took him home and then went to work. I thought that the incident was over. How wrong I was.

When Wally came to me to ask my advice on his case, I simply told him, "If you are guilty, to admit to it and take the plea deal; however, if you are innocent, stand up for your innocence." Wally decided to stand up for his innocence; unfortunately, neither of us understood how the system really worked and the extent to which it would go to convict an innocent person.

His court appointed attorney never showed either of us any of the discovery that he received. The only thing that we saw until after his trial was the criminal complaint that came in the mail. A clear case for ineffective counsel in my mind. Because Wally was charged as an adult, I was not able to make demands on the attorney to see the discovery, and believe me, I tried! In the state of Wisconsin, one is an adult at the age of 17 for all criminal offenses. Anytime the attorney didn't want to answer questions or speak to me, he would remind me that he didn't have to talk to me at all, even though Wally had given permission for me to see everything. Charging minors as adults provides a great service for the prosecution in that way. It is also important to note that it is the age of a person at the time the charges are brought, not at the time of an alleged incident.

It is also important to note that it is the age of a person at the time the charges are brought, not at the time of an alleged incident.  


Wally refused to speak to the detective, as is his constitutional right of course, but it is my belief that is why she came after him without taking the actual evidence into account. It was as though she took it personally. When she last spoke to me on the phone, she stated that without any information from Wally, she had no other option but to turn what she had over to the district attorney for charges. I told her that she should do what she needed to do. I felt quite confident that charges couldn't be brought against Wally because there was no evidence or witnesses to place Wally at the scene of the crime as he was elsewhere. After no charges were filed, I had thought that it was over. I was wrong--again!

As I previously mentioned, they waited nearly a year after the incident to charge Wally because, in my opinion, and what I believe their records show, they had no evidence against him and needed to finish negotiating the charges with their "witnesses" to get their testimony against Wally. There was physical evidence to prove that both boys [1] had been at the scene and eventually they both confessed. There was no physical evidence against Wally, and he had never confessed. He was charged with Felony Criminal Damage to Property - As a Party to a Crime. He was the only one charged as an adult even though he was the only one with zero evidence against him other than the testimony of the two boys who had physical evidence against them and who gave confessions.

I want to be perfectly clear that I do not hold any anger toward the two boys involved in this case. They were young, scared, and in my opinion manipulated by a detective who wanted to convict Wally. I cannot be sure what her motive was other than Wally had refused to speak with her, but at some point, she should have started following the evidence instead of trying to manipulate it. Below are just some of the things that were done in an effort to not only convict Wally but also to collect a highly inflated restitution amount.

First, the DNA evidence collected did not match Wally's DNA, but that was conveniently kept out of the trial. The state also withheld the recorded interviews of the two witnesses that proved detectives told the witnesses that Wally was with them, not the other way around, and she told them she had the evidence to prove it.

Next, the original information given to the responding officer by the homeowner's brother, who had discovered the damage to the home, was that he could not be sure when the incident happened. Additionally, the parent of one of the witnesses had just been sued for damages to the property in question after being evicted approximately two weeks before the crime. That same parent had previously tried to blame the damages after her eviction on another boy instead of her own son. She provided Wally's name to the detective and stated that Wally had slept at her home in an effort, in my opinion, to reduce her financial responsibility for the incident. That parent then changed her statements during the trial to match what the state needed in order to convict Wally. Since these statements didn't match the trial testimony, it gave the appearance that the prosecution was communicating with a witness about what testimony should be given.

Further, the timeline for the crime was fluid and changed to suit the State's needs in an effort to put Wally at the scene. In fact, statements made by the detective in her report were never established under oath in the courtroom and evidence could not be provided to prove that Wally was there at that time. The detective also committed perjury while answering a question from one of the jurors.

The statements and trial testimony of the two witnesses was also full of inconsistencies. The boys were uncooperative during their pre-trial meeting with the assistant district attorney and the detective was called to speak with them, or in my opinion intimidate them, into testifying as the ADA needed them to.

During the preliminary hearing the judge did not bring charges against Wally because she was not sure that the prosecution had provided enough evidence for the felony charges. The majority of Wally's trial was looking at pictures of the damage done prior to the crime, as well as the photos of the crime, instead of focusing on evidence or lack of evidence of Wally's involvement. During the appeal hearing, the judge stated that Wally should have known how damaging the testimony against him was because he was present at the preliminary hearing. No charges were brought against one of the witnesses, even though there was physical evidence and his confession.

The home was most likely, in my opinion, being used as a party house as it was vacant and not secured. The homeowner inflated the actual damage to the home by over $25,000, which was more than double the actual damage and asked for restitution for damages that obviously had not occurred during the crime in which the witness had participated. The homeowner lied about the previous damage during the trial. Furthermore, the homeowner committed perjury several times during her testimony, often inserting herself in place of her brother who had been the one at the home and initially discovered the damage.

The homeowner sold the home shortly after Wally was convicted, touting all of the updates that were provided as a result of her false testimony to the court. Charges were not brought against Wally until the sale of the home fell through for the homeowner.

We found out after the trial that Wally's attorney had only been an attorney for six months prior to receiving Wally's case. Before that, he had interned at another district attorney's office. When we asked him about his experience, he did not disclose this information. He only confirmed that he had worked for another district attorney prior to becoming a criminal defense attorney.

To clarify, we provided witnesses for where Wally had been during the time the detective had determined the crime had occurred. Wally's attorney didn't speak to them. We provided phone records showing who Wally had been with on the suspected day of the crime. Those records corroborated the state's witness who was found not to be involved in the crime. In fact, that witness stated under oath that he was with Wally and DB, meaning that the crime had probably not occurred on the day that Wally slept at DB's home, or that it happened on a day prior when Wally was at a friend's house in another town. Wally's attorney did not place those phone records into evidence, nor did he speak to his friend to find out what time he left his home.

He was given 3 years and he served 18 months, with the first weeks being in solitary confinement because he was deemed too vulnerable to be in with the regular population. He had to serve time because he violated his probation and charged with a crime (sending a topless picture of an ex-girlfriend after she cheated on him with a 30-year-old man) where the charges were dismissed after his probation was revoked. When he was first told to turn himself in, he did not, but did do so within a couple of weeks. He was scared because they were trying to give him 40 years for the photo. He never got to a minimum-security prison and spent most of his time with murders and child molesters. He had a year of probation after his time in prison.

Furthermore, Wally's attorney never met with Wally except for a few short minutes either before or after a court proceeding. He also did not return phone calls. I did not have the power to fire Wally's attorney and Wally didn't do it himself because I think he thought the evidence, or lack of, would be enough. Again, he was only seventeen. Wally's attorney did not show up for his pretrial meeting and was late for the trial. When I questioned him, he started screaming at me about how hard he was working.

The judge asked Wally's attorney if he was prepared for trial but did not ask Wally if he felt his attorney was prepared. If she had, Wally would have asked for a new lawyer like we had discussed while we were waiting for his attorney to show up. I had even stated this to the clerk when she came out looking for us and I told her that his attorney had not arrived.

We had no idea what Wally's attorney planned as Wally's defense. During the jury selection, Wally's attorney asked the potential jurors if they would convict someone if they did not provide a defense. Wally's attorney admitted during the appeal hearing that he did not provide all the discovery to Wally and that he did not have meetings with Wally outside of the courtroom. Even though the judge found that he was ineffective in some areas, he stated that it did not mean that he was totally ineffective. Additionally, the judge in charge of Wally's appeal did not believe that Wally was innocent and made that clear at the hearing prior to its beginning.

After Wally's death, I received a written statement from one of the witnesses stating that Wally had not been with him during the crime and that the only time he had ever saw Wally was at the trial. The other witness died of an overdose approximately six weeks after Wally died.

This is just a quick overview of Wally's case. I am convinced that had we had access to the discovery that this case would have been dismissed. The discovery, in my opinion, is a clear roadmap to Wally's innocence and the corruption of the detective and assistant district attorney. If only we had received it prior to the trial. The transcripts of both the original trial and the appeal hearing show the lengths that the system was willing to go to knowingly convict an innocent person.

He had told me that he had been told that they were not going to end his probation. I told him that they could not do that, but it was probably hard for him to believe me considering his interactions with the "justice" system in Wisconsin.

Wally committed suicide five months prior to the end of his probation.



[1] The two boys were the state's witnesses. One who gave me a written statement after Wally died that Wally was not with them, but felt pressured by the detective and ADA. He stated that he never met Wally. In the statements to the detective, after she pressured him, he stated that he had only met Wally on the day of the incident. There was never any attempt for this boy to identify Wally until court when he sat in the defendant's seat. The detective also tried to get the boy to say that he had met Wally on more than one occasion, I guess so she didn't need to prove identification. More proof to me that she knew she was working to convict an innocent person.

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