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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

McGee’s Trial Halted

The judge orders full transcription of Arabic conversations

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The prosecution and defense were ready to go and a racially balanced jury had been selected for the state trial of ex-alderman Michael McGee Jr. But, like just about everything else related to McGee’s current legal troubles, the next step seemed to be completely unforeseen: Taped evidence to be presented in the trial had only been partially translated from Arabic to English, and wasn’t good enough for McGee’s attorneys and Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Dennis Moroney.

Moroney ordered the state to provide full transcripts of the recordings from witness Adel “Jack” Kheirieh, who owned the grocery store that prosecutors say was the “hub” of McGee’s alleged vote-buying efforts. After turning in his evidence to the government, Kheirieh ran for McGee’s aldermanic seat earlier this year. He didn’t survive the primary, but McGee did, from jail. McGee lost to Milele Coggs in the general election on April 1.

The tape transcription must be completed by June 20, Moroney ordered, and the next court date likely will be July 3.

That will push the state trial into the late summer or early fall, after McGee’s trial in federal court, scheduled for June 16. By then, Moroney will be sitting in a different courtroom, handling civil cases. The McGee case most likely will be heard by Judge Richard Sankovitz, who is rotating into criminal court this summer.

McGee’s attorney, Larry Jarrett, may use this turn of events to argue that McGee was entrapped by federal agents.

Milwaukee criminal defense attorney Nick Kostich, who has been observing the trial, said that proving entrapment isn’t easy. First the attorney must argue that the government—in this case, the federal government, which convinced Kheirieh to record his conversations with McGee— used improper methods to induce McGee into committing the offenses. But that’s only part of it.

The defense must also convince the jury that McGee would otherwise not have committed the offenses without the government’s prompting.

“It then becomes a jury issue,” Kostich said. The jury that was selected on Monday has been dismissed, and a new one will be selected when the trial resumes later this year. McGee was arrested last Memorial Day and has been held without bail ever since.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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