Democrats decry plan to let DAs prosecute statewide

MADISON, Wis. — A plan by Republican attorney general candidate Eric Toney to allow prosecutors to cross county lines received heavy pushback from Democrats during a news conference Thursday.

Toney’s plan would allow a district attorney from one county to prosecute crimes committed in another county. He floated the plan namely as a workaround for two of the three DAs that have abortion clinics in their counties, both of whom say they will not prosecute abortion cases.

Eric Toney

Republican AG candidate Eric Toney speaks outside the Dept. of Justice offices on the Capitol Square in Madison Oct. 19, 2022.

Democrats like the state’s Attorney General Josh Kaul say, however, the proposal is misguided.

“There is no other type of case that Eric Toney has suggested this change for — there’s no crime where he says a DA should be able to go to another county and bring a prosecution,” he said. “But for abortion prosecutions, he wants that to happen but that is not where our attorney general’s priority should be.”

He said that would open the state up to prosecutions from officials that were not elected by the counties they would then be policing in.

“We have representative government and people in counties select their DA — they don’t select the DA in a neighboring county and that’s the system we’ve chosen to have,” Kaul said. “This [plan] would turn this system upside down and let someone who was elected in a different county make prosecution decision for another county.”

This is not a change that an attorney general could make unilaterally; it would require a change in state law. That would not likely pass under Democratic Gov. Tony Evers but could be more likely if Republicans win statewide this November.