MILWAUKEE — The Court Commissioner who set the recommended cash bail for the Waukesha Christmas Parade suspect just weeks before the tragedy has been reassigned to non-criminal matters indefinitely.
Court Commissioner Cedric Cornwall will be assigned to small claims or children’s matters from now on. Typically, Cornwall serves on the Children’s Court but was filling in for another commissioner who was on vacation during the Darrell Brooks case.
Brooks was charged with a felony domestic violence offense in early November after police say he ran over the mother of his child. Prosecutors recommended a $1,000 cash bail on the case and Court Commissioner Cornwall agreed to it. Brooks paid the bond and was released from jail just days before police say he drove an SUV through the Waukesha Christmas Parade, killing six and injuring dozens more.
The I-Team looked into all adult criminal cases that Cornwall set bail on this year. We found 153 total cases. He ruled in 44 cases where domestic abuse was involved, setting cash bails of a $1,000 or less in 15 of them. Out of those, five were felonies, including the Brooks case. The Brooks case is the only one in which the District Attorney’s Office has commented as being “inappropriately low.”
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Chief Judge Mary Triggiano tells the I-Team there are annual reviews of the Court Commissioners but this will be reviewed outside of that. While she didn’t comment on this being any sort of discipline for Cornwall, it’s the first action on any person who had a hand in the Brooks case. Both Chief Judge Triggiano and the District Attorney’s Office say all personnel matters are confidential.
The I-Team spoke with Justice Janine Geske, a retired State Supreme Court judge who also served as a Circuit Court Judge from 1981 to 1993. She says this is the best move for everyone involved.
“I’m sure the court commissioner feels terrible,” She said. “Any time somebody that’s been in front of you and you play a role in having them released, whether on bail or in sentencing, and something terrible happens, you feel awful. He’s probably very shook. It’s best he get out of criminal for a period of time and work in another area where he’s not making that kind of decision.”
Geske, while acknowledging she doesn’t know all of the facts of the case, believes the cash bail should have been set somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000.
The District Attorney’s Office says it will continue its review of the role its office played in sentencing. The Assistant District Attorney involved is still serving in her same capacity.