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Mayor Schmitt scheduled for December plea/sentencing hearing

Schmitt not present in court to enter "not guilty"
Posted at 10:52 AM, Oct 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-06 00:08:46-04

Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt did not appear in Brown County Court Wednesday morning for his preliminary appearance. Instead, Schmitt's attorney Patrick Knight entered a "not guilty" plea on his behalf.

Schmitt is accused of violating state campaign finance laws in a criminal court case that's come with calls for him to step down.

Since the special prosecutor says a plea deal has already been reached, Wednesday's "not guilty" plea from Schmitt is more protocol than anything. 
 
Schmitt is charged with accepting campaign donations over the legal limit, and tampering with campaign financial records between 2011-2015.
 
Attorneys say he's expected to plead guilty to three misdemeanors, and forfeit $26,000 of election finances to the School Fund. In exchange, prosecutors have agreed not to recommend jail time.
 
Mayor Schmitt has said any irregularities were not intentional.
 
Meanwhile, aldermen who called for the initial investigation are bothered by the delay. 
 
"And, maybe [it's] an attempt to push it beyond the spring elections, so that he could hang on a little longer, or gain more time to try to convince some of the council members that he should stay," says Green Bay Alderman Guy Zima after court. "But, one way or another, there are a number of us who are going to seek justice."
 
Meanwhile, mayor Schmitt tells NBC26 he would rather the case been resolved Wednesday morning.

Schmitt is scheduled to appear in court for a plea and sentencing hearing on December 5th in front of Judge Mitchell J. Metropulos. 

Both Mayor Schmitt and his attorney are adamant he has no intention of resigning.

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The attorney, representing Mayor Jim Schmitt says his client will not attend a court appearance as schedule. 

Patrick Knight tells NBC26 the hearing was changed and is now scheduled as an initial appearance on the misdemeanor charges and Schmitt has the option of not attending.

A near two-year investigation has led to the charges, including:

- False Statements to an Election Official (Attempt)

- Accept Campaign Contribution Funds not Belonging to Reported Contributor

- Accept Campaign Contribution in Excess of Limits

Watch: Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt charged with campaign finance laws

 

According to the special prosecutor handling the case, Mayor Schmitt plans to plead guilty. In turn, Milwaukee County's D.A. Bruce Landgraf says he won't recommend jail time or probation.

 
In addition, Mayor Schmitt has also dissolved his campaign committee (Friends of Jim Schmitt), and forfeited more than $26,000 in campaign funds to the state School Fund.
 
The 18-page criminal complaint claims Mayor Schmitt and his campaign accepted individual contributions exceeding the $1,040 limit. In one case the complaint alleges a $5,000 check from one donor was recorded in a finance report as five $1,000 donations divided among the donor's family. 
 
Prosecutors say the donor's bank account reflects a single $5,000 donation. 
 
In January 2015, city aldermen Guy Zima, Chris Wery, and Andy Nicholson requested a probe into Mayor Schmitt's campaign finances, pointing to thousands of dollars in improper contributions. 
 
Today, Mayor Schmitt says he has "made mistakes in the handling of campaign finances."
 
In a statement, Schmitt says "while I may disagree with some of his conclusions, I do not dispute his factual findings, nor his belief that all responsibility for accuracy, and compliance rests with me."