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Milwaukee criminal-defense attorney faces public reprimand

A Milwaukee lawyer faces a public reprimand over allegations that he failed to promptly and diligently represent a criminal defendant appealing his conviction.

State lawyer-regulators charged Christopher Hartley on June 29 with one count of misconduct stemming from his representation of the criminal defendant Kim Gentz, who had been convicted of felony charges stemming from domestic disputes with his girlfriend

According to the complaint filed by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, Hartley’s partner, Mark Pecora, represented Gentz in sentencing and post-conviction proceedings in Waukesha County Circuit Court until May 2013, when he filed a motion with the court saying that Hartley would be representing Gentz in his post-conviction appeal.

However, the OLR alleges Hartley took too long to file the appeal, which was filed more than eight months after the transcripts had been filed and that Hartley was already serving out his jail sentence.

Hartley had argued that Gentz’s trial counsel, Perry Lieuallen, had provided ineffective assistance of counsel by not presenting neither the testimony of several witnesses nor the provided statements of six witnesses Gentz claimed could refute his girlfriend’s testimony about their relationship.

However, according to the OLR, the deficiencies in Lieuallen’s representation was more expansive than that – Lieuallen failed to interview and investigate more than 20 possible witnesses and did not fully prepare his defense.  Hartley had indications of that from his investigator’s interviews of the six witnesses which Gentz had provided, the OLR alleges.

Also, during a hearing, Lieuallen failed to testify as Hartley had expected, yet Hartley failed to tell that to the court and failed to call witnesses who would have rebutted Lieuallen’s testimony, according to the complaint.

The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to publicly reprimand Hartley. He could not be reached Monday.

Hartley, who graduated from Drake University Law School in 1996, has been licensed in Wisconsin since 1997. His license is active and in good standing, according to the OLR and State Bar websites. The high court privately reprimanded him in 2009 and 2007.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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