Attorney Mark Catlin, Wisconsin Republican Politician and Legislator
Attorney Mark Catlin, a Wisconsin Republican politician and legislator, was admitted to the Wisconsin bar in June 1933, and was elected to the assembly seven times: 1937, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1949, 1953, and 1955 sessions. He served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946, and lived in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The State Board of Bar Commissioners filed charges against Mark Catlin on May 16, 1956. Catlin was accused of the following:
– Catlin induced or led various people to believe that he possessed influence in pardon or parole matters;
– Catlin accepted money from people who had the corrupt intention of influencing official conduct;
– Catlin knew of such intention.
– Catlin caused other attorneys to appear at hearings on pardon matters and Catlin did not appear openly as an attorney.
Count I relates to the defendant’s representation of Louis Fazio in a pardon matter; Count II to his representation of Americo DePietto in a parole matter; Count III to his representation of John and Jerome Mandella in a pardon matter; and Count IV is a general allegation with reference to parole and pardon matters of the individuals named in the first three counts and others.
In 1957, the State Bar of Wisconsin found Catlin guilty of unethical conduct. He was fined $1500 and his law license was suspended on November 5, 1957 for six months. The ruling was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reinstate Catlin’s law license effective May 7, 1957.
Pardon & Parole Terminology
A pardon is a grant of forgiveness from the Governor that can restore certain civil rights and privileges and relieve some legal disabilities. In Wisconsin, pardon authority rests solely with the Governor, and they have broad discretion over how pardon requests are considered and granted, subject only to statutes relating to how to apply for a pardon. The Pardon Advisory Board reviews eligible pardon applications and makes recommendations to the Governor on who to grant a pardon to. Since 1980, most Wisconsin Governors have used pardon advisory boards to help evaluate pardon applications and make recommendations. [See Governor Evers’ pardon website]
When the Wisconsin Parole Commission releases an inmate from prison prior to the end of their sentence, the person goes on parole. Parole usually comes with a set of rules and expectations a parolee must abide by. The Wisconsin Parole Commission is an independent commission, and the Governor does not have the power to grant parole.
An important note: Wisconsin has made significant changes to parole in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1998, Wisconsin enacted “Truth in Sentencing”, which eliminated discretionary parole. Essentially, any person who commits a felony offense on or after December 31, 1999, and is sentenced to at least one year in prison, is not be eligible for parole. They are required to serve the entire sentence imposed by the Court.
Mark Catlin’s Parole & Pardon Services
Attorney Mark Catlin represented an applicant for pardon early in his career as a lawyer and thereafter had represented a number of applicants for pardon and parole. He acquired familiarity with the records and procedures and became acquainted with many corrections employees. He visited clients in prison on a number of occasions, and had informal conferences about his clients with corrections staff who would likely sit on the parole board. Catlin would discuss his pardon clients with Governor Kohler while meeting on unrelated matters.
Catlin maintained no office files of any kind with respect to nearly all of his parole and pardon clients.
Louis Fazio and John and Jerome Mandella
Louis Fazio and brothers John and Jerome Mandella were in prison for murdering Mike Farina in 1964. Dominic Lampone was also convicted, but was not Catlin’s client.
Judge A. J. Hedding of Milwaukee originally represented these clients in their pardon requests, but asked Catlin to assist in representing them. Catlin originally declined, but in December 1953, Catlin agreed to take on Fazio’s case for payments from the Fazio family of $5,000 in advance and $5,000 more upon Fazio’s release. On January 8, 1954, Louis’ brother, Frank, paid $5,000 in cash to Catlin, with $1,000 of that turned over to Judge Hedding.
Judge Hedding died in February 1954. His son and associate, James, prepared Fazio’s pardon petitions and presented at the hearings on March 18th, and November 18, 1954. The first application was denied by Governor Kohler a few days after the hearing. After the hearing on November 18, Catlin approached the governor, urged clemency, and became involved in an argument with Edwin Wilkie, pardon counsel, as to the attitude of the trial judge toward clemency for Fazio. On November 20, the governor denied the pardon.
In early 1955, Catlin discussed the matter with the governor and the governor indicated he could not give favorable consideration to Fazio without doing something similar for the Mandellas and Lampone because they were involved in the same murder, and Fazio was identified as the one who shot and killed Mike Farina. After that, John and Jerome Mandella’s brother, Dominic, approached Catlin and agreed to pay him $4,000. An additional $1,000 was to be paid for release within one year. Dominic paid nothing at the time of the agreement, but made several payments within two months totaling $725. These payments were in cash except for an $80 check payable to Dominic and indorsed by him. No receipts were given.
The Fazio family became increasingly dissatisfied with Mark Catlin starting with the second denial in November, 1954. By January 1955, they complained to Alan Hubanks, executive director of Wisconsin Service Association, a charitable agency interested in the welfare of prisoners. He relayed the complaint to pardon counsel, Edwin Wilkie, and Governor Kohler. Wilkie investigated the matter at the governor’s request, and Governor Kohler later referred the results of the investigation to the Board of State Bar Commissioners.
Americo DePietto was convicted of the charge of assault with intent to rob or murder related to robbing Oscar Zerk of a $150,000 art collection on February 8, 1954 in Kenosha. DePietto was sentenced to one to ten years in prison in August 1954.
DePietto made contact with Mark Catlin through DePietto’s girl friend, Joyce, and a fee of $1,000 was agreed upon. By phone, Joyce and Catlin arranged a meeting at the airport in Chicago, and on June 27, 1955, Catlin flew from Madison to Chicago and received $100 in cash and a $400 check. On July 17th, 1955, Joyce paid the $500 balance to Catlin upon his assurance that everything was in order and that the parole would be granted either then or the following May. Catlin cashed the $400 check at a business establishment in Milwaukee and cashed the $500 check at a bank in Appleton where he did not have his account. Parole was denied.
In addition to Fazio, the Mandella brothers and DiPietto, Catlin allegedly took money from Joseph Ferro, Richard O’Connor, Louis Adams, William Peterson, Milton Berman, Ronald Spence, and Louis Kopacka.
Hearings were conducted during the month of August, and included testimony from Governor Kohler, Edwin Wilkie, several prison inmates and their families. and other public officials.
On August 13, Governor Kohler testified that Catlin accepting money from inmates was “highly improper” and he had told Catlin so. He said Catlin told him on at least one occasion that he told a client not to say who was representing him because he did not want his name attached. Catlin was especially “insistent” with Kohler that Louis Fazio should be pardoned, and lied to Kohler when he said that trial judge Edward Gehl agreed. Kohler said, “Catlin is a volatile and explosive sort of person. He was ranting and bombastic.” [Worth noting is that Kohler and Catlin were in the same party, but Kohler believed Catlin’s actions were so egregious that not turning him in would be a stain on the whole parole and pardon system.]
The Fazio brothers revealed they had taped their meetings with Catlin, and turned over the tapes for evidence.
A family member of the Mandella brothers said fees were paid at a baseball stadium, in a restaurant bathroom and other unusual places in cash so there would be no record of the payments.
One client testified that he was told to lie and say his attorney was Joseph Sensenbrenner because Catlin didn’t want to be associated with the case.
On August 23, Catlin took the stand and called Frank Fazio an “unmitigated liar.” He said he had collected a total of $16,000 from his parole clients, but had no record of that, as he had no records since 1940 and relied on his memory. Catlin recommended that rather than punish him for his “improper” behavior, the state should pass a law more clearly defining what a lawyer can do in representing a parole candidate. The court disagreed, saying that Catlin heavily implied that his political position gave him better access and influence in getting a decision, which would be improper.