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Head of Wisconsin parole agency quits at behest of governor

Wisconsin capitol
Posted at 5:38 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 11:41:46-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Parole Commission Chairman John Tate resigned Friday, a month after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers made a hasty appeal to Tate in the midst of Republican criticism over parole plans for a convicted murderer.

Evers, who asked Tate to step down, had come under fire from GOP gubernatorial candidates when Douglas Balsewicz appeared to be on his way to freedom last month after serving less than 25 years of his 80-year sentence for stabbing his wife to death in 1997.

Instead, Tate changed his mind after the governor said the family hadn’t gotten a chance to fully respond to the move.

“I do not agree with this decision, and I have considerable concerns regarding whether Johanna’s family was afforded sufficient opportunity to voice their memories, perspectives, and concerns before this decision was made,” Evers wrote.

Tate did not mention the Balsewicz case in his resignation letter, but said he was told at the outset it was the most difficult job in the state.

“The difficulty could not be understated, as no parole decision is easy and no decision can ever truly satisfy all interested parties,” Tate wrote. He added that he has done his best to be “fair, just and understanding.”

Balsewicz, 54, was set to be released from prison for killing wife Johanna Balsewicz in front of their children. Evers, who lacks the power to rescind someone's parole on his own, wrote a letter to Tate asking him to reconsider.

GOP gubernatorial candidates Kevin Nicholson and Rebecca Kleefisch called for Evers to fire Tate. Paul Farrow, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, accused the governor of giving criminals more consideration than victims.

“It shouldn’t have taken widespread public outrage (over Balsewicz’s parole) for Tony Evers to finally consider doing the right thing,” Farrow said.

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