A North Freedom man convicted of homicide and battery involving a late-night Baraboo street fight is seeking a new trial.
A Sauk County Circuit Court judge heard testimony Friday involving a motion filed by the new attorney for 30-year-old Jae M. Robinson.
Last year, a jury found Robinson guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and being a party to substantial battery. The felony charges related to an Oct. 4, 2015, fight that resulted in the stabbing death of Anthony Inman, 36, North Freedom, and the beating of his friend, Anthony Peterson, 34, of Mauston.
In the 10-page motion, Robinson’s appellate lawyer, Michael Rosenberg of Madison, argued his client didn’t receive a fair trial because his prior attorney failed to raise key objections and to pursue a theory about the motive for the fight.
Rosenberg also argued the judge improperly allowed testimony at trial about Robinson’s behavior earlier that evening that had nothing to do with his intent or motive involving the fight. That evidence only tainted Robinson’s character in the eyes of the jury, according to the court filing.
During a hearing on the motion Friday, Rosenberg called Robinson’s trial attorney, Michael Covey of Madison, to testify.
Prior to the January 2017 trial, Covey filed motions to prevent jurors from hearing evidence of Robinson’s prior actions, including incidents of drunken, belligerent, and violent behavior in the hours prior to the fight.
Under questioning from Rosenberg Friday, Covey acknowledged that he did not try to exclude testimony about additional instances in which Robinson allegedly made derogatory comments about women that evening.
He also said he had no strategic reason not to pursue a theory that Peterson – the man who was beaten – had started the fight because he had feelings for a woman Robinson had been hitting on that evening.
“Counsel, I just didn’t think about it,” Covey said. “It was a long trial, and I’m certain I made lots of mistakes.”
Covey also said Robinson made him aware during trial that Sauk County Assistant District Attorney Linda Hoffman made a comment during closing arguments that he believed was inaccurate, but that he didn’t object.
Hoffman cross-examined Covey during Friday’s hearing, and elicited testimony from him about a conversation they had the prior day. Covey acknowledged saying that he poured his “heart and soul” into the case and that he would “love it” if Robinson got another trial.
Rosenberg later asked Covey whether either of the remarks he made to Hoffman had colored his testimony during Friday’s hearing.
“Absolutely not,” Covey said. “I’m not going to lie to get Jae a new trial. I will not minimize nor maximize any of my actions or omissions to get Jae a new trial. I’m just going to testify the truth.”
Judge Michael Screnock ordered that prosecutors file a response brief to the motion by June 27. Robinson’s attorney will then have until July 13 to reply.
Robinson acknowledged inflicting the stab wounds that caused Inman’s death, but said he acted in self defense. He was sentenced to life in the correctional system, and may apply for supervised release in 2045.
He was one of three people charged in relation to the fight, and the only one to go to trial. In the months after Robinson’s conviction, prosecutors reached plea deals with two of Robinson’s friends who participated in the fight and the woman who drove all three men from the scene.
Christopher L. Nash, 39, of Baraboo, was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 9 years behind bars. After his release, he will remain under community supervision for an additional 6 years.
Matthew T. Harvey, 33, of Baraboo, also was convicted of felony murder. He was sentenced to 11 years behind bars and an additional 6 years of supervised release.
Harvey’s then-girlfriend, Amanda N. Rotar, 25, of Baraboo, the getaway driver, was convicted of harboring or aiding a felon. She was sentenced to 18 months behind bars and an additional 18 months of supervised release.