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Pre-Election Reveal of ‘Racist’ Footage Unlikely

MADISON, Wis. (CN) - Video that Democrats say shows a Republican politician making racist and sexist remarks is unlikely to be released before Tuesday's election.

Though Judge Richard Niess sided with Democrats demanding release of the video at a hearing Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court, Assistant Attorney General Anthony Russomanno said that the Wisconsin Justice Department would likely appeal by the Friday noon deadline.

That development would result in the placement of a temporary stay pending a hearing Monday morning.

Whether the videos of Waukesha County district attorney Brad Schimel actually contain anything scandalous remains uncertain after Niess noted that he saw "nothing that can be considered misconduct on the part of any presenters, at least not as far as I could see."

The Democratic Party had petitioned Judge Niess for a writ of mandamus last week after allegedly learning that Schimel, a Republican candidate for state attorney general, made "offensive racial remarks and ethnic slurs, including but not limited to stereotyped accents, as well as sexist remarks" during a Statewide Prosecutors Education conference.

Claiming that many of the presentations Schimel made at these SPET conferences were taped, the Democrats said the state Justice Department should release five allegedly incriminating videos.

Schimel's opponent in the attorney-general race is Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, a Democrat who has focused heavily on women's issues in her campaign.

The Justice Department denied access to two videos and said it could not locate the other three.

Claiming that Schimel mentioned specific cases in the training sessions, the DOJ said releasing the tapes would violate attorney-client privilege and victims' rights to privacy. It also argued that dissemination of the videos is not in the public interest.

"They contain detailed inside information and insight about how to best catch and prosecute sex offenders who prey on minors online," the department's opposition brief states. "They also contain specific and sometimes graphic exchanges involving minor victims and nonpublic information about traumatic effects on the victims."

After reviewing the two withheld videos, Niess noted at the hearing Thursday: "This is not particularly novel stuff."

One of the videos contains general tips for investigating child predators, which are likely publicly available through law enforcement training materials and in popular media, the judge said.

Any case details discussed in the other video meanwhile are already widely available via international news outlets since the case was tried, Niess added.

While it is possible for victims to be traumatized by hearing about the case again in the media, Niess said the test for whether to withhold government records must weigh the best interests of the overall public, not a few specific victims.

The public would benefit from videos' content regarding how sex offenders are caught and prosecuted in that it better enables parents to protect their children, the judge found.

"All of that is, I think, extremely important for the public to know," Niess said.

Michael Bauer, an attorney for the Democrats seeking disclosure, told reporters after the hearing that he did not expect the judge to determine whether Schimel had committed misconduct. "That wasn't his job," Bauer said of the judge, adding that the public must evaluate Schimel's behavior from the videos.

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