Trial planned for three Stanley prison inmates who escapedA trial for one -- and likely all three -- of the inmates accused of obtaining forged documents to get early releases from the Stanley Correctional Institution in January 2010 has been set for Feb. 5.
By: By Chris Vetter, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
CHIPPEWA FALLS -- A trial for one -- and likely all three -- of the inmates accused of obtaining forged documents to get early releases from the Stanley Correctional Institution in January 2010 has been set for Feb. 5.
Chippewa County assistant district attorney Roy Gay informed Judge Steve Cray at a hearing Wednesday that it would be virtually impossible to have a trial earlier than next year because of the schedules of all the possible witnesses that could be called to testify.
Gay noted this case isn't just about Eddie G. Evans, 59, Jimmy A. Baldwin, 34, and Henry Spencer, 27, being charged with escaping from the prison; they also are charged with forging documents and identity theft.
"The state will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the (release) documents were forged," Gay said.
That means a fingerprint analyst will need to be called to testify, showing that two of the convicts had handled the release documents. It also means judges and attorneys whose names are on the forged documents also will need to come to Chippewa Falls, most from Milwaukee County, to testify.
Additionally, some of the forged documents were sent to Louisiana, where Evans faces prison time. Gay said it could mean court officials from that state might have to be brought to Wisconsin to testify.
"These people would have to rearrange their schedules," Gay said.
Combined trial sought
Because of the expenses, and difficulty in getting everyone here, Gay said he wants to combine the three cases and hold just one trial.
Cray set a Feb. 5-8 trial date for Spencer, agreeing with Gay that a trial this fall isn't feasible.
"I think the public wants a prompt disposition, but I don't think the case allows for that," he said.
Cray will rule in November if the trials for Baldwin and Evans will be consolidated with Spencer's trial, which appears likely because of similarities and overlapping evidence in the case.
"It appears there were a significant amount of forged documents," Cray said. "There are three defendants, there are interrelated facts, there are multiple witnesses."
Defense opposes delay
Defense attorney Bob Thorson, who is representing Baldwin, argued the trial should happen this fall, and the state has had more than two years to get its case ready. Thorson said Baldwin is eligible for a parole hearing this fall, but that won't occur with the pending charges. However, Gay noted Baldwin has a mandatory release date of 2043.
"It is very unlikely he would be granted parole at his first hearing," Gay responded to Thorson's request.
All three inmates appeared in Chippewa County Court for the first time on Wednesday. Each man was brought up individually from Boscobel, where they are being held. They were in separate areas in the Chippewa County Jail so they couldn't discuss the case.
According to court records, Baldwin and Evans were released from the prison in January 2010. Baldwin was released Jan. 19, while Evans was released Jan. 21. Both men were apprehended shortly after their release. Spencer also had forged paperwork, but authorities realized his were fake, and he was never released.
Baldwin was supposed to serve a 45-year prison sentence; the fake documents changed that to 20 years. Evans was supposed to serve 20 years in prison; his fake documents changed it to eight years.
Prison inmates never touch authentic release forms, which are mailed directly to the prison and not sent to inmates.
The criminal complaint states that Evans had committed similar forgery while he was incarcerated in Louisiana, and had knowledge of how to perform forgeries.
"My understanding is (Evans) was the primary mover and shaker," Gay said Wednesday.
The altered forms looked like authentic documents, Corrections Department officials have said. The criminal complaint lists minor changes that explain how the forged papers differ from authentic documents.
Vetter can be reached at 723-0303 or email@example.com.
(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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