Waukesha parade suspect faces multiple life sentences regardless of motive if convicted
Darrell Brooks' now-hidden Facebook account contained discriminatory posts
WAUKESHA, Wisc. – It could be a case to work smarter not harder – giving prosecutors less to prove but the same penalty if they secure a conviction against Waukesha parade suspect Darrell Brooks Jr.
The Milwaukee man is accused of mowing down Waukesha’s Christmas parade. He has a violent past and had made anti-White and anti-Semitic Facebook posts before the social media giant took down his page last week.
But even as Waukesha police quickly ruled out terror as a motive and have spoken little of his social media accounts, Brooks faces a half-dozen possible sentences of life in prison if convicted on six charges of first-degree intentional homicide.
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Those charges are Wisconsin’s equivalent of first-degree murder. And prosecutors could still level dozens of additional charges in connection with the attack, which killed at least six people and injured another 62 during a post-pandemic holiday celebration.
"The best approach to a prosecution of Brooks is to charge him with murder and felony murder counts, in addition to attempted murder, maiming, criminal assault, and other straightforward felonies to account for those who were injured," said Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who won convictions against 12 plotters behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Hate crime and terror charges unnecessarily give prosecutors more work to do, he said, and could give Brooks’ defense attorneys inadvertent openings.
"I don’t like ‘hate crimes’ charges because they overcomplicate violent crime prosecutions, sometimes incurably so," McCarthy said. "That is because they shift the emphasis from what the defendant did to what his motive was for doing it. That can be a trap, especially with a defendant who is likely to raise his mental capacity as a defense."
Brooks has a lengthy criminal record – a 50-page rap sheet stretching back to 1999 in Wisconsin alone, riddled with violent felonies, domestic abuse and drugs. He’s also served time in Nevada, where he’s a registered sex offender, and in Georgia.
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Court documents exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital Tuesday also indicate he has a history of mental illness and suffers complications from his meds – when he even takes them.
With Brooks already facing life in prison -- and an abundance of physical evidence, video and eyewitnesses -- prosecutors don’t need to unnecessarily complicate things with terror or hate crime charges, McCarthy said.
"Hate crimes are also pointless in this sense: A sentencing judge is always permitted to take any relevant factor into account in imposing sentence," McCarthy added. "Therefore, if you get a defendant convicted of multiple life counts, the judge may factor in any hate motivation in meting out the term of imprisonment. So the best approach is: make sure you get him convicted by indicting on charges that are easy to prove (here, murder), and then argue hate-motivation at sentencing."
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As it stands, it’s unclear what would have motivated Brooks to mow down dozens of innocent people, as authorities allege. He’s made no public statements and his lawyers, two public defenders, have declined to comment on the case. And it’s unclear what, if anything, he told police after they arrested him shortly after the parade attack.
"If prosecutors wanted to analogize this atrocity to a terrorist mass-murder attack, better to do that at sentencing, where it’s a good argument, than at trial, where you’d have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.
Brooks allegedly plowed through a crowd on Nov. 21 after fleeing an apparent domestic incident near the parade route, according to authorities.
But as he fled, police on scene stated that it appeared as though he were intentionally swerving into victims. One officer looked into his eyes and said he saw "no emotion on his face," according to the criminal complaint.
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Just days earlier, he bailed out of the Milwaukee County Jail for just $1,000 and then dodged jail time in nearby Waukesha when an official freed him on his own recognizance and stayed a 120-day jail term for contempt of court over missed child support payments.
Waukesha District Attorney Susan Opper requested and received a staggering $5 million bail in connection with the parade attack last week.
Fox News' Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.