The Year 2024 Started Off With A Bang Due To Incredible Advocating By Attorney John Orth

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Sometimes clients can be their own worst enemies. And when acts of self-sabotage occur, that is when patience, compassion and persistence are at a tremendous premium. In a recent post, Attorney John Orth reported the following:

“While on probation for 10 counts of theft and robbery, R.A. was arrested for 14 additional counts of criminal charges, primarily theft and drug possession.  She was confined to jail on a probation hold and proceedings to revoke her probation were initiated.  Both episodes were clearly motivated by R.A.’s addiction.  Despite the severity of both the original and new charges, Attorney Orth was able to persuade both her probation agent and the prosecuting attorney that the inadequacy of her previous treatment plan was the root cause of reoffending.  After helping her to secure placement at a long-term treatment facility, Attorney Orth was able to avoid the revocation of her probation and secure a disposition on the new charges that avoided any further reincarceration.”

Sounds like a happy ending? Not so fast. Between the writing of the above narrative and the next court date at which this superlative disposition was to be formalized, R.A. absconded from her treatment facility after less than two weeks and resumed intensive drug use. Upon learning this, Attorney Orth immediately contacted R. A. and recommended that she turn herself in prior to the next court date as the best first step to repaving the way to reviving the settlement that he had previously secured. R. A. did not follow Attorney Orth’s recommendation and instead committed seven more felony retail thefts.

As is inevitably the case, R.A. was eventually picked up and placed on a probation hold and revocation proceedings were initiated once again. Attorney Orth was able to again secure an alternative to probation revocation in the form of supervised drug abuse treatment. However, this outcome would be contingent on the prosecuting attorney’s agreement to not pursue imprisonment on any of the pending charges. Given the circumstances and chronic nature of R.A.’s criminal history, this seemed unlikely. Yet that is exactly what happened. While the prosecution had initially revoked its previous agreement upon learning of R.A.’s latest crime spree, Attorney Orth was able to work with the Department of Corrections and the District Attorney’s Office to craft a solution that adequately satisfied both the concern for public welfare and R.A.’s treatment needs. R.A. is presently participating in an intensive treatment program. Upon successful completion of this program all pending charges will be resolved with a non-prison disposition. Although, as we know from experience, things don’t always go as planned.

Now, let’s consider the results achieved for client E.R. Following a highly contentious separation from his wife, E.R. was arrested and charged with felony first degree reckless endangering safety from an incident in which he was alleged to have deliberately cut the gas line at his ex-wife’s home in what the prosecution viewed as an attempt to end the lives of his ex-wife and children. The crime of first degree reckless endangering safety is defined by Wisconsin law as follows:

1. The defendant endangered the safety of another human being.

2. The defendant endangered the safety of another by criminally reckless conduct.

“Criminally reckless conduct” means the conduct created a risk of death or great bodily harm to another person; and the risk of death or great bodily harm was unreasonable and substantial; and the defendant was aware that his or her conduct created the unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm.

“Great bodily harm” means injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or other serious bodily injury.

3. The circumstances of the defendant’s conduct showed utter disregard for human life. In determining whether the circumstances of the conduct showed utter disregard for human life, consider these factors: what the defendant was doing; why the defendant was engaged in that conduct; how dangerous the conduct was; how obvious the danger was; whether the conduct showed any regard for life; and all other facts and circumstances relating to the conduct.

E.R. acknowledged tripping over a gas line while visiting the property but fastidiously denied that he caused any damage intentionally. Certainly a simple accident could not constitute “criminally reckless conduct” as described above. Knowing that an accidental tear could be distinguished from and intentional cutting, Attorney Orth enlisted the assistance of an expert from the National Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners and was ultimately able to convince the prosecuting attorney that no crime at all had been committed resulting in the dismissal of the first degree reckless endangering safety charge.

And then there is client G.T., a U.W. Madison student. G.T. had a not-so-great evening recently. Following a bit more imbibement than good judgment would recommend, G.T. woke up to find that he had been issued a criminal charge of disorderly conduct. It turns out that passing out in a stranger’s front lawn can be viewed as criminally disturbing behavior. Given G.T.’s relative youth and lack of any criminal history, it would seem a shame to have G.T.’s reputation marred by even a criminal charge being filed, much less a conviction being sought. In such situations it is critical to have experienced and aggressive representation that knows when and how to intervene to get the best possible outcome. Where some attorneys might simply wait for the court date assigned to G.T., enter a not guilty plea and then attempt to negotiate a favorable disposition at a later time, Attorney Orth took a more proactive approach. Knowing that police reports and a charging recommendation would be filed with the District Attorney’s Office within the few weeks following the incident, he made contact with the District Attorney’s Office on a daily basis until the case was under review for a charging decision. When that occurred Attorney Orth was able to arrange a meeting with the Assistant District Attorney who was reviewing the case. Following that meeting charges were declined altogether and G.T. was spared with unpleasantness and public humiliation that comes with defending against criminal charges.