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Republican Attorney General candidate Eric Toney is the only candidate in the race that’s used Wisconsin Crime Lab resources as a front line prosecutor.
But in highlighting this fact, he is putting an extra shine on his own apple.
The man he wants to replace, Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, runs the state crime lab and has used crime labs in the past as a federal prosecutor.
Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney really wants you to know he’s a front-line prosecutor that uses the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and that state Attorney General Josh Kaul isn’t.
It’s a line the Republican candidate for attorney general has hit often in the past month in campaign literature and television appearances, such as an Aug. 22, 2021 one on WISN’s "UpFront":
"I'm the only front-line prosecutor in this race that's actually used the resources of the Wisconsin Crime Lab in the prosecution of cases."
Toney hopes to face Kaul, a Democrat, in the general election. University of Wisconin-Madison law professor Ryan Owens is also running in the Republican primary.
But Toney made the comment as part of a longer criticism of Kaul and his handling and use of crime lab resources, such as delays in processing DNA and firearm evidence -- topics for another day. So, we’ll evaluate the claim with Kaul in mind.
Is Toney right about being the only prosecutor in the race, and the only one to use the state crime lab?
Since taking office in 2013, Toney has prosecuted hundreds of cases, if not more, in Fond du Lac County, often leveraging the state crime lab to process evidence, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records.
Meanwhile, Owens -- Toney’s primary opponent -- works as a law professor and has no prior criminal prosecution experience in Wisconsin, according to state circuit court records.
But Kaul, as the attorney general, actually manages the Department of Justice and its 800 employees, including the state’s crime lab itself. He oversees a team of prosecutors who handle criminal cases that include homicides, sexual assaults, the distribution of narcotics, and fraud.
Kaul campaign manager Sondra Milkie noted that the attorney general "oversees investigators and prosecutors who use results from the Wisconsin State Crime Labs in investigating and prosecuting some of the most serious criminal offenses."
What’s more, Kaul served as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore from 2010 to 2014 where he used crime labs -- albeit not the Wisconsin one -- in the prosecution of murderers and drug traffickers.
So, while Toney may be on point with the specific words he used, he is ignoring other information and drawing a narrow and somewhat misleading picture for voters.
When asked about that missing context, Toney’s campaign essentially simply repeated its claim.
In a TV interview, Toney claimed: "I'm the only front-line prosecutor in this race that's actually used the resources of the Wisconsin Crime Lab in the prosecution of cases."
The statement may be accurate -- Owens is a law professor and Kaul’s experience as a front-line federal prosecutor relied on crime labs in other states, not in Wisconsin’s -- but it needs clarification.
That fits our definition for Mostly True.
Email interview with Eric Toney campaign, Aug, 26, 2021.
Email interview with Josh Kaul campaign manager Sondra Milkie, Aug. 26, 2021
Wisconsin Circuit Court records involving Ryan Owens, Eric Toney and Josh Kaul as prosecuting attorney, Aug. 26, 2021.
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