Steve’s StoryBy admin
The Wisconsin Justice System, how unfair is it? I don’t feel there is a “system” of any “justice” at all in the state of Wisconsin. My name is Stephen Lehman, and I’m currently no longer a member of society in Wisconsin. I recently plead guilty to 2 counts of burglary in the Milwaukee Court System, in front of Judge Cimpl. I’ve been removed from society for 19.5 years, for a crime that the maximum sentence is 12.5 years, 7 years confinement, 5.5 years extended supervision, under the current Wisconsin laws. I committed 2 crimes, neither of which were a burglary. One crime was theft, and the other was receiving stolen property, but I was charged with 2 burglaries instead and under my lawyers advice, public defender Lawrence Moon, I plead guilty to the charges of burglary instead of the crimes I committed. Now I sit wondering what went wrong. Let me tell you my story….
I was on probation for a burglary committed in 2002, a burglary I committed and took responsibility for. I was also on probation for another burglary charge, committed in 2005. The crime I committed in 2005 was not a burglary, but criminal damage to property, in Waukesha County. I was offered a plea deal for probation with a stayed sentence on the greater charge of burglary, which I took, never thinking the charge of burglary, a much more serious offense, would hurt me later.
Three years later having relationship problems with my girlfriend, and mother of my son, Stacy. I sought out help from my probation officer for depression and anger issues. I was turned away and told that there is nothing that can be done for me through the probation office. No programs, no counseling, I was told to seek help on my own. Help that I could not afford. Suffering from depression I try to carry on. The relationship gets worse and my probation officer locks me up in jail for 6 months. Upon my release I’m left with nothing.
My now ex-girlfriend has taken everything from the relationship that we purchased together – both cars, all of the household goods, I’m left with nothing but my clothing. I have lost my job while being locked up, I have no home, no money, and I’m forced to move in with family who has no room for an extra person in their home. I’m still suffering from depression, and with all that is going on in my life, the depression gets worse.
I go again to my new probation officer, Michelle McDonald, and I explain to her all that has happened in the past years, I explain to her my problems with depression and anger, and my lack of money to seek help on my own, I go to her with my problems 4 times, asking for any help the department of corrections can offer me. Each time I’m told there is nothing they can do for me.
My depression gets worse, I start drinking to try and cover the pain. I still can’t find work in this hard economy. I’m trying to do right, trying to seek help, but I’m getting no where. No, it doesn’t make turning to crime or breaking probation rules right, crime is never the right choice. I end up stealing a bike so I don’t have to walk 4 miles to visit my daughter. Is it wrong? Yes. Is it a crime? Yes. Should I be punished for breaking the law? Yes. Charged with a burglary? No. A burglary is not taking a bike out of someone’s yard. That is a theft, but still a crime.
Shortly after that a friend helps me out and loans me the money to buy myself a car. Soon after my friends help I’m able to find myself a job. I’m a carpenter by trade. I start working for a remodeling company making $25/hr. Life starts looking up. I’m starting to get back on my feet, feeling much better about myself and my life.
My son’s mother and myself start talking more, and I feel we are working on our relationship, but things between us hadn’t really changed, it just won’t work out and it’s hit me hard. I try anything to make this relationship work, I buy her nice things, I pay her bills, I’m willing to do anything I can, a love struck fool, too blind to see the truth. I’m being used, I buy stolen things from an old friend of mine, to give to Stacy. She takes the gifts and only breaks my heart. I start drinking more, and my depression is at it’s worst.
Stacy and I only fight more, and Stacy seeks revenge and calls my probation officer. She tells her lies that I own a gun, and that I’ve threatened to shoot people, and turns over the stolen property I’ve given her. I get arrested and feel shame for the things I’ve done, sunk so low in my depression, that when the police question me about the stolen property, I told them that I stole it all. I told them I broke into the home, that the property I had given stacy came from. Not caring that I will go to prison. Knowing I’ll find the help I’ve been looking for in the prison system. When my probation officer questions me I also admit to her the crimes I’m accused of. Due to my false confession, I get revoked for 9.5 years in prison, 8.5 years extended supervision. And the courts also charge me with 2 counts of burglary.
While in custody I seek help for my depression, I start taking medications to help me, I also have a counselor I will talk with every week. After a few months I start thinking straight and understand what is happening to me.
When my head clears up, I contact my public defender and explain to him in detail about what happened with the crimes I’m charged with, and my true involvement in them. I tell him that my confession to the police and probation officer are a lie, and why I lied. I tell him that there is proof that this confession is false, I tell my lawyer that there is 4 witnesses who can account for the truth. One witness can show I was with them at the time the burglary was committed, two witnesses can attest to being there with me when I bought the stolen property from someone else, and my 3rd witness can attest talking with them about the crime and my involvement and what I did with the property I bought. I explain to him how I felt at the time of my arrest, and that I confessed because of my depression. My lawyer tells me that it doesn’t matter that I was depressed, no jury would believe that is why I confessed to a crime I didn’t commit. Depression is not a good enough reason for a false confession. It doesn’t matter that the 4 law abiding people can and will take the stand at trial, to attest that I didn’t commit the crimes I’m charged with. It doesn’t matter that the victim who was burglarized and saw the burglar enter their home didn’t pick me out of the line up. They swore that the person who burglarized their home was not at all in the line up. The very victim, who according to the complaint, was 5 feet from the burglar in their home. This victim who said no one in the photos (keep in mind I’m in the photos) looked at all to be the person who entered their home. With all that and more, my lawyer tells me there is no way we can win at trial. I know I’m not guilty, my witnesses know I’m not guilty, the victim knows I’m not the person who was in their home, but I should still plead guilty knowing I’m not guilty as charged?
My lawyer tells me that if we go to trial we will lose, and if we lose the judge will max me on the sentence, but with me already revoked for 9.5 years in, 8.5 years out, the worse that will happen to me if I take responsibility for the crimes I’m charged with is 2 years consecutive. But, if I take this to a trial, and I will lose that trial, that the judge would be mad that I wasted the courts time, money, and I didn’t take responsibility that he will most likely max me on my sentence. I was afraid and mad. I was afraid to go to trial with what my lawyer was telling me, and I was mad because I knew I didn’t do the crime, I felt the punishment of 9.5 years was more than enough for what I had done. I was scared, and told my lawyer time and time again that I wanted a trial, that I didn’t commit the crimes of burglary in either case. I was guilty of theft. Theft of a bicycle, and receiving stolen property. Two misdemeanor charges, not the felonies I was charged with. But, my public defender scared me into pleading guilty to 2 charges I didn’t commit.
The judge accepted my guilty plea, and sentenced me to 16 years consecutive to the 18 year term that I received on my revocation, giving me a 34 year sentence, 19.5 years confinement time, 14.5 years extended supervision for a crime I did not commit.
Yes, I broke the law, I stole Lisa Sarenac’s son’s bike and took items from her unlocked car. Mrs. Sarenac and her husband, a city of Milwaukee police officer, didn’t come to my court sentencing date, so I was not given the opportunity to tell them how sorry I was. There is no excuse for what I did, and I truly do feel bad for the problems and headaches I caused for the Serenac family, and I’d like them to know that I am sorry for the crime against them.
For Kelly and Nicole Kochler, they also did not appear at my court hearing. I wasn’t the man who entered your home, but I did buy the items that were stolen from your home. It doesn’t make me a better person because I didn’t enter your home and steal your personal property. A better person would have done the right thing and told the police who stole it, who broke into your home and scared you half to death. I can’t begin to understand how you feel, and I know in my past I’ve made others feel the way you feel, and I feel responsible for the way you are feeling. I am so sorry I have brought this fear to you. I thought I wasn’t a bad person because I didn’t commit the crimes, but I know, my actions and involvement has put fear into you, at a place you should always feel safe, your home. I’m sorry for my part I played in this crime. I have problems, which is no excuse, my problems shouldn’t be your problems to suffer, and I hope that with you reading this you’ll see a little of who I am, I’m not a bad person. I’m a person who has made bad choices in life.
Should I be punished for 34 years of my life? I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. Look at crime in this city. I know of a man in here who committed 12 armed robberies and received 7 years in prison. I’m in prison with a man who killed his wife 30 years ago, it took the system 30 years to get a conviction, he received 5 years in prison for murder. Another man here in prison with me killed 2 people in a drunk driving case. He got 16 years in prison, 3.5 years less than what I received. Another man here in prison has 36 armed robberies and arson, he received a plea deal for 20 years in prison. 36 armed robberies and arson!! A woman from Madison murdered an infant child and got 13 years in prison. Convicted felons with records as long as your arm get caught, selling drugs, having guns, and get less than 5 years in prison.
Violent crimes are receiving less time than what I received. Criminals in Milwaukee and all over the state, who have a violent past are getting almost no time in prison — people who hurt and kill others! Should the man/woman who robbed you and shot you get 34 years in prison, or a man who stole your bicycle?
Yes, I agree 100% both men should be punished, we broke the law, but punished at what cost to you, the public? I’m going to cost the tax payers in the excess of $600,000 to confine me for the 19.5 years. A state who is fighting for a budget, taking money away from school systems and other important programs for the state, but it’s okay for you, the tax payers, to pay over $600,000 to confine a man who stole a bicycle? Instead of helping me when I was asking and begging for help from the Department of Probation and Parole, telling them I have a problem, please help me! There was no funding to help me then, but now they have $600,000 to lock me up for 19.5 years? Spend less and prevent the problem, help the people who seek the help instead of waiting until it’s too late and paying much more.
Where is the justice in what was done to me? I should be punished, I broke the law. Should I spend 19.5 years behind bars for what I did? That is not justice, that is cruel, vindictive, and abuse of power by the Judge Cimpl in this case. Why did he give me so much time? Was he a friend of the police officer? Was he or a loved one a victim of burglary? I’ll never know, but I’ve got the next 19.5 years to think about the whys.
What do you think?
If you’d like to make a donation to help Steve seek fair justice in this case, he’s seeking donations to hire the legal firm GRGB Law, Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin, Brown LLP. You can use the below PayPal link, or send payments directly to Steve.
To Send Money to Steve Use This Address (MONEY ORDERS ONLY – NO CASH OR CHECKS ALLOWED):
Stephen Lehman #189943
Fox Lake Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 600
Fox Lake, WI 53933-0600
To Write Steve Use This Address:
Stephen Lehman #189943
Fox Lake Correctional Institution
Fox Lake, WI 53933-0200
Alternatively If you’d like to send e-mails to Steve you can do so by clicking here.