RACINE, Wis. - Michael Gableman, the former Supreme Court justice who investigated voter fraud, was in court Monday, Sept. 19 representing Harry Wait, someone accused of that very crime.
Gableman said he was temporarily helping the defendant only Monday and said he would be helping Wait find a long-term attorney.
Wait admits he posed as others, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Racine Mayor Cory Mason to request absentee ballots for them. He said he was trying to show vulnerabilities in the system.
For a second court session in a row, the court waited for Wait. Racine County Judge Robert Repischak started court without the defendant. Earlier in September, it was for 18 minutes. This time, the judge started minutes early.
"Oh, Mike is already here," said Wait, upon entering court. "How about that? It’s still before 11:30. We’re good."
Michael Gableman, Harry Wait
As of Monday, Wait no longer represented himself. At least this once, that job was for Gableman.
"I have been officially retained only to represent him for today and for the purpose of helping him secure the legal counsel to represent him," said Gableman.
To make time for that, the judge agreed to postpone the preliminary hearing until Oct. 7.
"I definitely prefer people have attorneys rather than act pro se so that things are done right the first time," said Repischak.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice charged Wait with election fraud and felony identity fraud.
"It seems to me that Mr. Wait has been entirely forthright, honest and transparent throughout this proceeding, and I want to make sure that all of his legal rights are safeguarded and whether that’s me or a different lawyer, I think it’s very wise for him to decide to seek counsel," said Gableman.
"Your critics are going to raise questions," said FOX6's Jason Calvi.
"My critics? Do I have critics? That’s just because they don’t know me," said Gableman.
"They’re going to raise issues with you representing somebody who is accused of – " said Calvi.
"My critics would raise issues if the sun rises from the east and sets in the west, so I’m not too concerned about that," said Gableman.
After the Sept. 8 hearing, Wait spoke to the media in the courtroom, and the judge yelled to stop and then ordered the parties to no longer talk to the media about this case.
"What about the judge issuing a gag order? Are you worried now that you are talking to the media on this particular case?" asked Calvi.
"I’ve had a very confined role in the matter," said Gableman. "All of my comments have been consistent with the confined role.
Outside the courtroom, Gableman said he only learned about the judge's order because of FOX6's question.
"I just learned about this gag order after one of our members of the press asked me a question," said Gableman. "He said, 'Aren't you concerned that answering my questions, you're violating the gag order?' And I said, ‘I better read the file.’"
He also praised Wait's supporters.
"I've seen statewide politicians who've had less turnout than Mr. Wait," said Gableman. "It really is remarkable and refreshing, all the good things that the founders envisioned for democracy and the direct participation of the people, to see them come out."
"My actions were shown to be of public benefit and necessity, and we have plenty of defenses to move that forward," said Wait.
If convicted, Wait could be locked up for 13 years.
"It is a case of great public significance," said Gableman.
Speaker Vos in 2021 hired Gableman to lead a probe into the 2020 election. In August, Gableman endorsed Vos’ Republican primary opponent, Adam Steen. After Vos won, he fired Gableman and said this:
"There were some pretty clear instructions for Mr. Gableman," said Vos. "One was to avoid partisan politics. One was to avoid any political rallies, and the third was to make sure he regularly updated us on what was happening. He failed at all three."
That taxpayer-funded investigation cost more than $1 million.
Progressive watchdog group "American Oversight" requested public records. They fought Gableman and his election investigation in court over the requests. They say Wait's brother worked for the election investigation and records they did get show Wait was in touch with Gableman over e-mail last year.