Wolfe fails in motion questioning his own defense

More than two years after he was sentenced for the second degree reckless homicide of his live-in girlfriend, Kenneth Wolfe took on his own defense attorney Thursday in an unsuccessful motion hearing in Shawano County Circuit Court.

Testifying by telephone from the Green Bay Correctional Institution, Wolfe spent about 30 minutes making a rambling and sometimes emotional argument in which he maintained he was the victim of inadequate counsel.

“I feel like that I was lynched,” said Wolfe, who repeated claims that the shooting death of Teresa Allen on Feb. 2, 2003 was accidental.

According to authorities, Allen was killed when she was shot in the head with a bullet from a .38 caliber revolver fired by Wolfe.

Wolfe told investigators that he had heard his dogs barking outside and went outdoors with a gun to check on what was making them bark. He said he then came back into the house a short time later and sat on the couch next to Allen. The gun then went off, he said, accidentally striking her in the head.

“I’m accident prone,” Wolfe told the court Thursday, complaining that his clumsiness should have been brought out by his defense.

Wolfe also said he has attention deficit disorder, and problems with comprehension that caused him not to be able to understand all of the paperwork shown him by his attorney.

Wolfe’s attorney, Nila Robinson, sat quietly, going through her file and making notes during Wolfe’s telephone testimony. She occasionally shook her head in response to some of Wolfe’s allegations.

Wolfe said he was advised by Robinson to make a plea agreement in the case against his own better judgment.

“She told me I would not be getting any more than three to five years,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe was initially charged with first degree reckless homicide, which could have netted him a sentence of life imprisonment, before the plea agreement that reduced the charge to second degree. Wolfe was sentenced to the maximum on that charge of 15 years imprisonment.

During a hearing in 2002, several witnesses testified that Wolfe had a long history of domestic violence.

During Thursday’s hearing, Wolfe faulted Robinson for not calling witnesses to speak in his defense at the sentencing hearing.

“She didn’t have anybody stand up for me in the courtroom,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe also complained that Circuit Court Judge J.R. Habeck — who also presided over Thursday’s hearing — did not have adequate time to review letters in his favor because his attorney provided them with too little time before sentencing.

Wolfe said there were numerous letters from Allen in which she expressed her affection for him, and complained they were not seen by Habeck.

“We were going to be married,” Wolfe said. “We had the engagement ring, everything but the license and the wedding dress. I loved her very much and I still do to this day.”

Habeck said he did recall reading at least one letter, possibly two from Allen expressing affection for Wolfe.

Wolfe also disputed testimony that had been presented before he was sentenced maintaining that he had been abusive to his ex-wife.

“I was never abusive to her,” Wolfe said. “It was the other way around, but I never said anything about it.”

Wolfe also maintained he had never seen the pre-sentence investigation report and never had a chance to challenge the findings. However, Habeck noted that Wolfe was asked at sentencing whether he read and understood the report and had said that he had.

Wolfe wrapped up his comments by telling Habeck that in one way he was glad to be in prison.

“Thank you for putting me in here, otherwise I probably would have killed myself,” he said.

Robinson was reluctant to respond to Wolfe’s comments because of attorney-client privilege.

“Lawyers don’t really have the luxury of defending themselves,” Robinson told the court.

After a lengthy discussion with Wolfe seeking to clarify whether he was waiving his attorney-client privileges, and to ascertain whether he understood the consequences, Robinson was called to the stand to defend her defense.

Robinson acknowledged that there were things she would have done differently, though she said none of them were likely to have altered the outcome.

Robinson said that in retrospect she failed to foresee that the sentencing hearing would be as impassioned as it ultimately was.

“The sentencing turned out to be a very emotional affair,” Robinson said.

She said she had hoped to keep the sentencing from becoming an exchange of outbursts between Wolfe’s family and Allen’s family. She said she saw no benefit in calling Wolfe’s mother and stepfather to speak in his defense.

“I did not think that an emotional appeal on behalf of the son they love would be as important as trying to keep the emotionalism and the drama down,” she said, explaining she was going for “more ration and less rage.”

Robinson also said she did not recall discussing attention deficit disorder or Wolfe’s proclivity for accidents with her client.

Robinson also cited hostilities that had been seen in open court between the two families to dispute Wolfe’s assertions of a good relationship between Allen and his mother.

“In light of the outbursts that occurred, the idea that there was a great relationship is different than any information I had ever been given,” Robinson said.

She also disputed Wolfe’s assertion that Robinson had told her he would not be in prison if she knew then what she knows now.

“That didn’t happen,” she said.

Wolfe’s mother and stepfather were present for Thursday’s hearing, and his mother was asked if she wanted to make any statements.

“There is a lot I could say,” she told the court, but said she was too nervous to make a statement. “This is all very new to me.”

She was asked to state her name for the record but refused to do that with a reporter present. Despite it being a public hearing, Habeck allowed her to give her name confidentially to the court reporter after the hearing was over.

District Attorney Gary Robert Bruno asked only one question of Robinson — whether she felt she believed she presented a reasonable defense.

“There are things I would have done differently,” Robinson said, “ but in the main, I think our office did a good job.”

Bruno argued that Wolfe had failed to meet the burden of showing he had an inadequate defense.

Habeck not only agreed, but commended Robinson for the defense she had mounted in Wolfe’s defense.

Habeck noted that Robinson successfully argued for a delay of nearly a year of the scheduled jury trial, allowing for more investigation.

“I do believe the better and more logical information she found resulted in the lesser charge,” Habeck said.

Habeck said Robinson had used a logical and successful strategy in Wolfe’s defense.

“I have no grounds to find that there was an inadequate defense presented,” he said in dismissing Wolfe’s motion.

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By Tim Ryan, Leader Reporter
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