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Hearings on preliminary hearings becoming not so preliminary

The longest preliminary hearing occurred in Outagamie County in September 1987. It took six weeks.

It involved a prostitution ring run by William Evers in Outagamie County. Many defendants were charged, though many pleaded out or had their charges dropped as the hearing went on.

The preliminary hearing came up while the Wisconsin Judicial Council’s criminal procedure committee took testimony June 17 about changes to its proposal to amend the state’s criminal code. The most hotly contested issue was whether to get rid of the preliminary hearing, though the committee voted to tell the council that it should stay.

Still, in an era where most preliminary hearings are waived – or take a few hours if they actually take place – a six-week preliminary hearing sounds like a daunting thing to watch.

Most trials don’t even last that long.

Oshkosh attorney Robert Vander Loop brought it up while testifying to the committee. He represented one of the defendants in the case. He said that as the hearing wore on, the case fell apart for prosecutors.

“Most of the witnesses couldn’t identify my clients,” he later said in an interview.

Still, Vander Loop and others said the trial was more notable for prosecutors’ use of the Wisconsin Organized Crime Control Act, essentially the state version of federal racketeering laws.

In this case, Evers was, as the Associated Press put it in 1988, owned “a network of massage parlors that were transformed into houses of prostitution.” He was sentenced – after a five-month trial – to 20 years in prison, though he spent most of his time suing everybody he could to get some sort of relief.

As the AP also put it, the judge also tore the community a new one for essentially sanctioning this kind of activity.

“None of it would have been possible without the patronage of the people of the Fox River Valley,” Reserve Judge Albert Twesme of Galesville said. “They are the ones who made all this despicable behavior possible. It was they who made these activities lucrative.”

About Eric Heisig

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