MADISON (WKOW) -- There's a glimmer of hope for a combat veteran's bid for the removal or reduction of an old felony conviction, as a prosecutor drops the condition of re-enlistment as a condition of considering leniency.
Eric Pizer was convicted of felony substantial battery in Grant County for breaking a man's nose during an after-bar fight in 2004, while on leave from his Marine Corps duty. Pizer received commendations as he served in two deployments to the Middle East for the Iraq War.
In 2009, the man who prosecuted Pizer, assistant Grant County district attorney Anthony Pozorski, considered taking action to address Pizer's felony conviction, but only on the condition Pizer return to military service.
"I was willing to try to look into the matter to see if I could find a way to assist Mr. Pizer," Pozoroski wrote to Pizer's attorney. But Pozorski said Pizer's desire to work as a correctional officer instead of re-enlisting in the military changed his mind. "Since Mr. Pizer is no longer pursuing a re-enlistment in the military to go off to war, I am no longer willing to look into the matter to see if I can find a way around the law," Pozorski wrote.
But Pozorski tells 27 News he's now willing to look at a bid for leniency by Pizer, with no conditions attached.
"If someone could show some authority in case law to change Pizer's case, I would consider it," Pozorski tells 27 News.
Pizer is seeking either a modification of his sentence, or a pardon from Governor Walker, to allow him to carry a firearm and pursue a law enforcement career, after earning a degree in the field. Pizer's launched a web site on his pardon bid: http://pardoneric.com/
Former Outagamie prosecutor David Relles is an advocate for Pizer's bid, citing Pizer's lack of any criminal history separate from the felony, and Pizer's military service. Relles says Pozorski could agree to not oppose a request to a judge for Pizer's sentence to be modified from a felony to a misdemeanor. Both Relles and Pozorski say such modifications have been done in courts in several Wisconsin counties.
But Pozorski says an appellate court decision frowns on such sentence reductions.
Earlier this month, a Dane County judge vacated fifteen year old felony drug convictions against a Madison man, allowing him to avoid deportation. Relles notes Dane County's district attorney originally opposed the leniency, but later reconsidered, and did not oppose the action. Pozorski says he's participated in a similar cases, when a case outcome is changed to prevent deportation. But Pozorski says defendants in older felony cases with deportation risks were at times not sufficiently informed of consequences, while Pizer should have known his felony conviction carried with it a firearms prohibition. Pozorski also says Pizer's victim's continuing pain from the 2004 injury is a factor in any consideration of leniency.
Relles says while procedural steps to sentence modifications are not enshrined in case law, prosecutors and judges have recognized the merits of making such changes in certain cases in the name of justice.
While Walker has maintained pardons undermine criminal justice decisions, and has granted no pardons, the chief legal counsel of a former Republican governor urges Walker to reconsider.
"In my opinion, the exercise of executive clemency is part of the criminal justice system and, ultimately, a compassionate society's last chance to see that justice has been done," attorney Edward Marion writes in a letter published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Marion's letter cites previous pardon cases as examples, including a man who served in Iraq and received commendations, after his 1995 drug conviction was forgiven.
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