Babbitt's Department of Ulterior

When wealthy casino tribes sought to derail a would-be competitor, campaign donations were the currency of the day

"Q: 'Do you recall how large a contribution or contributions the tribe made and to which entities the contributions were made?'"

"A: 'Give me a second.' (Witness confers with counsel.) . . . 'A hundred thousand.'"

"Q: 'To the DNC?'"
"A: 'To the DNC.'"
Further down the food chain in the Hudson casino dispute, far outside the Beltway, perhaps even beyond the reach of the Sunday Times, depositions in Wisconsin had a more aggressive spin upon the plausible-denial phenomena.

Antigambling activist Ken Tilsen, a former Minnesota attorney and once the organizer of the Wounded Knee defense committee, was no more cooperative than his counterparts at Interior. An excerpt from Tilsen's deposition:

"Q: 'What was your involvement with the Better Future for Hudson Group?'"
"A: 'I don't know what group you are giving that name to.'"
"Q: 'Let's use that name for the group that published Exhibit 17 (the full-page newspaper ad Tilsen wrote).'"

"A: 'I think that would be inaccurate. I do not know that that was the name of the group.'"

"Q: 'Well, why don't we, for the purpose of this deposition, use that name because it was used by members of the group who in fact paid for this ad in earlier deposition testimony.'"

"A: 'My recollection is that they would be erroneous. That's not my recollection.'"

"Q: 'Well, what would you call the group that did this ad?'"
"A: 'A group of local business people and others.'"
"Q: 'Did they have a name for their group?'"

"A: 'Not to the best of my knowledge. People's recollections differ. That's my recollection. . . .'"

"Q: 'What was your connection with the group that ran the ad?'"
"A: 'I don't know what the term "connection with the group" means. I can't answer that question. You have to be more specific with your questions.'"

"Q: 'Did you ever meet with them?'"
"A: '"Them" assumes an organization. I met with certain people, but I don't know what "them" means.'"

"Q: '"Them" means the people that met on a fairly regular basis and ran that ad.'"

"A: 'I don't know how to answer it.'"
Mr. Tilsen, though himself a witness in the case, presented himself at a deposition as the attorney representing another Hudson resident. Unfortunately, Tilsen was not licensed to practice law in Wisconsin. The court reporter captured this exchange when Tilsen's presence was challenged:

"Tilsen: 'Why are you questioning me? I think it's--I think that you're--I think that you have no right to question me and I think that your questions are presumptive and irrelevant, and I think furthermore that you have a full knowledge of what the appropriate proceeding is to deal with this issue before the court and you have neglected your duty. You have presumed to take the responsibility of the court onto yourself and I think you are subject to censure for failing to carry out your duties if you feel I shouldn't be here . . .'"

The attorney representing the three tribes seeking the casino permit summoned the police when Tilsen refused to cease posing as a lawyer. The police officer asked Tilsen to vacate the office.

"Tilsen: 'Well, I'm not leaving. I will accept a citation for violation of the trespass statutes, which is what I understand that he wanted you to do, and we'll dispute--we'll find out in court whether or not I am legally trespassing or not. . . .'"

"Officer Weigang: 'Mr. Tilsen, the only thing that concerns me right now is that you're on somebody else's premises. They have asked you to leave and you're refusing to do so.'"

"Tilsen: '--trespass is--trespass is--the failure to leave--'"
"Officer Weigang: 'I'm going to go--'"
"Tilsen: 'Let me finish the sentence. Please. It's an important sentence. Trespass is the failure to leave unless one has a claim of right. I am sure the Wisconsin statute provides for a claim of right. I claim a right. I've litigated the question of a claim of right many times. I've litigated a claim of right in trespass cases to the Supreme Court. I believe the Wisconsin statute provides for a claim of right. I claim a right to be present because this is a public deposition, if for no other reason.

'Read the statute. What does it say? What does it say? You're reading it to yourself. You don't want to read the claim of right part.'"

"Court Reporter: 'Wait, just wait, wait.'"
"Tilsen: 'I wonder why you refuse to read the claim of right provision in the statute?'"

"Officer Weigang: 'I haven't been able to find it yet.'"
At this point a lawyer licensed to practice in Wisconsin informed the policeman that the state had no claim of right statute.

"Officer Weigang: 'I'm going to ask you to leave now. If you refuse to leave then I am going to take you into physical custody for failure to obey a police officer.'"

"Tilsen: 'It has to be a lawful order to obey, and a lawful order to obey depends upon whether or not I have a lawful claim of right . . .'"

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