Plea bargain coercion led to subversion, sadism, and self-destruction: Milwaukee Criminal Defense Lawyer Martin Kohler.



A goal turns into obsession when a viable alternative is unimaginable. Once embedded in a psyche, a bad investment can twist the mind and bankrupt the soul. Such was the case for renown Milwaukee criminal defence lawyer Martin Kohler. Obsessed with reaching a plea bargain that concealed the truth, Kohler set on a path of self-destruction, visiting sadism along the way.

The simple story here is that Lawyer Kohler violated professional ethical standards and the law for the plea bargain. But the story isn’t simple.

From the start of his representation Lawyer Kohler assessed me – his client – as the local bank executive might consider an infatuated high school admirer. So sure was he of his mastery of the situation that he ignored the limits and entered the forbidden zone. Viewed as a mere trifle at first, the girl brought the banker down. On his knees she ends his career.

That is exactly what I did to Milwaukee Criminal Defense Lawyer Martin Kohler. Well no, of course not: he had to do that to himself.

Naive of both the law and the brotherhood of Milwaukee lawyers, I trusted Lawyer Kohler to expose the horrors that my son endured at the hands of an ill mother. She was submerged in a dark and frightening place, taking her child with her into a world of postpartum depression.

I sought help from friends, neighbours, doctors, and the police for over two years. I went to court; I asked a guardian ad litem and a judge to stop the onslaught of physical and mental abuse that threatened my son. His head was being forced under water; he was placed into garbage bags, he was made to bond naked with mom’s new boyfriend … just for starters.

My efforts failed and the abuses continued … until I took him away to protect his nervous system and quite possibly to save his life.

I hired Kohler because of his reputation for effective legal outcomes. Had I been a drug dealer my choice would have been perfect. Those folks need plea bargains to stay out of jail; I did not.

Lawyer Kohler soon enough saw the dilemma. I tasked him with exposing a history of failure by colleagues who hadn’t intervened to stop child abuse. Those colleagues relied on Kohler to keep their negligence concealed, somewhat like the Catholic Church you might say.

Kohler was no iconoclast, not a legal hero. His career was built on deals and collaboration and protecting influential colleagues. What Kohler saw as the solution to avoid collegial disfavour was – the plea bargain.

Kohler wasn’t a trial lawyer because he didn’t need to be, as long as he did what he had done successfully more than numerous times. Considering himself a plea bargain specialist, he thought the job here would be simple.

In this case, however, Lawyer Kohler had to violate more than his own client’s innocence. Removing my son from harm, as I had done, was not only lawful but was required by law. This provided Kohler with the perfect legal defence, a defence he deliberately chose not to use. Far more importantly, Kohler intended to violate my son’s innocence to gain the plea bargain.

My need to expose what happened to my son turned into Kohler’s increasing sense of power and determination not to have the story told. The possibility of further harm to my son should have been the impetus for the speedy application of the law, a speedy trial. Instead, trying to protect a child became the groundwork for his sick, sad mental games, sanctioned by Judge Hansher for 18 months.

Kohler began a game of expectations on day one, just after the retainer and bail money reached his bank account.

I was emotionally exhausted from trying repeatedly to keep my son safe. My devotion to his protection, as passionately expressed to more than just Kohler, was seen as package veneer, a pedestrian idealism to be chiseled away and replaced by the reality of a legal system that protects its own as first priority.

“The sooner we get you out of there on bail, the better you can protect your child,” Kohler offered as a sop in a kindly voice. “Who knows what she might do to him? The paperwork is ready. I’ll bring it right over to get you released.”

“Yes,” I agreed wholeheartedly and with heightened anticipation. I was to be released on bail, charged with interference with child custody. I would soon be able to act on my son’s behalf; that was on my mind.

Kohler did not appear that day. He phoned next morning and apologised.

“Something came up suddenly,” he explained sincerely.

That was not Kohler’s last excuse nor the last apology offered with seemingly genuine reassurances. The bail pendulum swung back and forth several more times, for about a week. Each time anticipation peaked; each time Kohler failed to appear.

I had not understood then what the expectations game was about, nor why Kohler would play it. I recall feeling despondency and resignation with each disappointment, a tiredness and the desire to sleep. I experienced a diminished faith in the legal system and its intent to protect children, but no abandonment of my intent to protect my child.

What Kohler knew through plea bargaining experience was that innocent clients who initially feel optimism and the desire to proclaim genuine innocence become exhausted and more compliant due to the tactic of rousing anticipation, followed by disappointment. The greater the anticipation, the greater the disappointment, the greater the emotional impact the greater the exhaustion until the day when a “no“ becomes a “yes.” The game that Kohler played was a part of dark legal arts and had long ago been demonstrated to increase a client’s state of suggestibility.

Had my goal been as straightforward as fighting solely for my innocence, then Kohler might have had a chance. But my goal was as obsessive as Kohler’s and infinitely more worthy of sacrifice. That understanding bypassed Kohler, but it saw me through the worst that he threw at me.

Lawyer Kohler used expectations and disappointments and eventually things far worse, including high-stakes deceit and threats. He told me that he had received information that my son might be subject to more abuse, but he refused to take action with child protective services. He claimed he could not reveal his source nor provide further information. However, if I plea-bargained, he promised to arrange for protective supervision.

All I had to do was disavow my reason for taking my son away from his mother.
I will not forget how pleased Kohler seemed to be with himself, having cleverly thought of using my son’s pain to force my hand.

In different forms, the tactics that Kohler used are everyday fare for other unscrupulously clever lawyers. They wring-out the naive notion of innocent clients having the right to a trial. The notion can also be replaced with a false confession.

Every criminal defence lawyer reading this essay knows exactly what I am referring to. Many will metaphorically walk over to their nearest mirror.

Kohler’s game of expectations evolved from the time of my release on bail. It consisted of scheduled meetings intended to explain my motivation or to present evidence, things Kohler knew I longed for and that were central to my emotional makeup. He even set phoney dates for the trial, something that could have been done only with judge Hansher’s approval. This caused upheaval and anger, as defence witnesses changed their work schedules.

One after another opportunity to tell my story vanished into postponements, some just hours before a scheduled meeting. Each was an emotional blow that caused physical and mental anguish, tiredness and fear. I once phoned Kohler after a postponement, begging him to ensure my son’s safety. Kohler’s response, as always, was to promise a quick resolution.

On one particularly pregnant occasion, immediately following a postponement in court, Kohler placed a multi-page document on the table before me.

“We have had enough of these postponements,” he declared in disgust. “This will take care of the problem,” as if the postponements were not his doing.

“Here, just sign this last page,” Kohler instructed.

There was a lot of text. Kohler must have assumed I would trust him when he said “sign here.” At first I did. I thought my signature could stop the delays. But I began to read. It emerged that signing would have amounted to admitting I had no valid reason for taking my son to safety.

For God’s sake, why not just switch lawyers and be done with this psycho? Because “just” did not apply. Because I thought a lawyer would be required to take his client to trial eventually if no plea bargain were reached; because I knew Kohler would have no choice but to present my evidence to a jury, including witnesses; because of the grave threat of ever further delays in keeping my son safe.

Kohler warned, “If another lawyer even takes your case, which is not certain … you’ll have to start over. But we’re ready now, for the trial. I can see that.”

I relented each time because I feared further, interminable delays in getting to trial.

As time went on Kohler’s desperation increased to outright threats. His characteristic Cheshire cat grin had disappeared just hours before the actual trial took place. He warned that I was on the road to five years hard time at the maximum security Waupun Correctional Institution … unless I finally signed the plea agreement.

“How is that going to help your son?” he intoned.

The day previous, Kohler had his private investigator, Santo Galatti, phone me:

“Give it up, Mark. You’re going to get beat at trial. Your witnesses are no longer with you. Your sister refuses to support you. We don’t have a chance now and you face prison.”

“How is that going to help your son?” Galati asked.

It had been orchestrated and planned, all to protect Kohler’s cronies. Nothing about the law. Nothing about the myth of American justice. The Milwaukee legal system countenanced replacing the intent of the law with the preferred intent to deceive.

It didn’t matter what the threat. Life for my son and me would not go well walking down the road Kohler intended. A spiritual darkness would descend. No matter the threat, the truth of his abuse had to be confronted.

A trial did take place and Lawyer Kohler slipped into legal madness.

Kohler’s anger at my final refusal turned him to petulance and revenge. He refused to submit a defence witness list to the court, as required; he arranged for a personal friend to illegally replace a black juror; he refused to submit medical and other evidence to the court.

My defence lawyer abandoned me during the trial. He literally walked away from me at the trial’s noon break. He then went on to encourage the jury to find me guilty, implying, along with the prosecutor and later the judge, that I was seriously mentally ill. That was now meant to explain the bizarre circumstances: the lack of defence witnesses, the absent defence evidence, outrageous claims of child abuse (all court/lawyer/police/physician records of previous complaints of two years were kept from the jury, never entered as evidence. Jurors were thus also victims of lawyer corruption.)

A number of Milwaukee lawyers knew about the violations described here; they remained silent. Doing otherwise, with influential lawyers and a judge involved, would have amounted to career suicide.

To reinforce the false assertions made in court regarding my mental health, three court-ordered mental health evaluations – attesting to good mental health with no adverse mental health issues whatsoever – were fraudulently altered. These were then submitted to the court as the official reports. One report in particular angered Judge Hansher. It directly contradicted his disparaging public remarks, as it stated that I was “likely telling the truth” about what happened to my son. That report was also fraudulently altered to state the opposite.

The lawyer for the appeal, Steve Glynn, promised to expose Kohler and Hansher for their “outrageous and blatant legal violations.” That would have taken real courage. Glynn’s initial legal swagger and bravado disappeared like gnats in the wind when it came time to file and to argue. Technical legal matters, he suddenly realized, were at issue in the case.

No small effort was made to silence me following the trial and the appeal. I was fined the largest amount ever awarded against an author in the State of Wisconsin, over $ 600,000, for exposing lawyer corruption in booklets and in Beyond Outrage (

Unable to continue to expose corrupt lawyers in Milwaukee, I now do so from Europe, where I exercise the First Amendment rights denied me in Wisconsin.


Books. Lawyers Broken Bad (; Beyond Outrage (






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