01STOCK_WALWORTH_JUDICIAL_CENTER

Walworth County Judicial Center in Elkhorn, Wis.

MADISON

The state Supreme Court accepted a Walworth County case Tuesday and will consider whether the $500-per-count surcharge associated with child porn possession charges is a “punishment” he should have been told about during his plea hearing.

Whether it is considered a punishment is relevant because Anthony M. Schmidt is arguing Walworth County Judge Phillip Koss should have explained it during the 2019 plea hearing before imposing $7,000 in costs.

After reaching a plea agreement, Schmidt, 31, of Lake Geneva, pleaded guilty to six counts of possessing child porn, and he had eight other of those charges dismissed and read into the record, according to online court records from the April 1, 2019, hearing.

Koss ordered him to pay $7,000, which is the $500 surcharge for all 14 of those counts, although Schmidt is also asking the state Supreme Court to vacate the surcharge on the dismissed and read-in counts.

Koss in a written decision denied Schmidt’s post-conviction motion to withdraw his plea.

This case comes from Walworth County, which by at least one measure has imposed higher court fines and fees than any county in the state, according to 2011-15 data released in August.

The data compiled from Measures for Justice found that the median defendant in Walworth County who had to pay court fines and fees paid more than in any county in Wisconsin—and Walworth County’s figure ($930) almost doubled the state’s median ($518).

In a court filing response to the Schmidt case, a state Department of Justice lawyer said the $500 surcharge is “purely remedial and, thus, does not need to be included in the plea colloquy.”

The state argued that the funding goes toward criminal investigations about child porn and to treatment and advocacy for victims.

“Imposing the surcharge on each associated image requires those who are most responsible for the increased costs of combating child pornography and treating sexual assault victims to make a substantial contribution towards offsetting those costs,” the Oct. 7 filing with an appeals court states.

A lawyer representing Schmidt wrote in a July 14 filing that the intent of the surcharge statute might not be punitive, but the court needs to look at its effect.

“The statute has the potential of imposing crippling, potentially inescapable, financial hardship on a convicted offender,” that filing states.

Schmidt in the filing said he is entitled to a hearing for the potential withdrawal of his plea.

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