12 years in prison for Milwaukee mayor's attacker
By CARRIE ANTLFINGER , Associated Press
Last update: July 23, 2010 – 3:58 PM
MILWAUKEE – A judge sentenced the man accused of attacking Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to 12 years in prison Friday, after Barrett testified he thought he was going to die.
Barrett choked up during his comments and urged Milwaukee County Judge David Hansher to put Anthony J. Peters, 21, in prison for "a long period of time."
"To send a message when someone is just trying to help, for God's sakes just trying to help his child, that you don't turn on them, threaten the person's children and beat the person to the point he almost died," Barrett said.
The mayor was leaving the Wisconsin State Fair last August when he heard a call for help from the grandmother of Peters' daughter. Peters was threatening and trying to force Ellen Sabady to give him the girl. Authorities say when Barrett tried to call 911, Peters grabbed his phone, threatened to kill him and his sister, two daughters and niece and then ordered Barrett to the ground. That's when Barrett said he decided to punch Peters.
"'I never thought I was going to die this way,' that's what was going through my mind," said Barrett, 56. "This is a lousy way to die."
Peters then repeatedly hit him with a tire iron.
Prosecutor Mark Sanders showed photos of Barrett's bloodied face with missing teeth from the hospital, the 3-inch gash on the back of his head, his battered hand with a protruding bone and the pool of Barrett's blood on a sidewalk, which caused a radio reporter to burst into tears.
Hansher also ordered 10 years of supervision for Peters. Sanders had recommended as part of a plea agreement that Peters be sentenced to a nine-year prison sentence followed by 10 years extended supervision. Defense attorney Anthony Cotton asked for a two-year prison sentence followed by eight years of extended supervision, noting Peters' bipolar disorder, depression, his children being surrounded by violence and the fact he was off his medication the night of the attack.
Peters apologized to Barrett and his family.
"I accept full responsibility for what I've done and the consequences that come with them," he said. He called it an "embarrassing weak moment in my life."
He said he wanted to judge to consider he has been seeing a counselor weekly for the last nine months, obtained his high school equivalency diploma and had a life and family to return to.
Hansher asked where he got the tire iron and Peters said he found it in the street and routinely brought it with him for protection "in case something happens at a party," but didn't initially intend to use it the night of the attack.
Hansher called both attorneys' recommendations insufficient, causing Peters to close his eyes. He showed little other reaction Friday. Hansher said it wasn't just about Barrett's serious injuries but the future reaction of other would-be good Samaritans.
"It's the fact that others are going to walk away, I fear, because of what happened here," he said.
Barrett, a Democratic candidate for governor, was hailed as a hero after the attack but has shied away from discussing the incident during his campaign. After sentencing, he said he didn't think it should impact the race.
"What I'm doing here today is obviously of an immensely personal nature," he said.
He said the only bad day he's had in the last year was being told he wouldn't regain full use of his hand. But he said he hasn't lost a moment of sleep, because he felt he handled it well, getting his family and the woman and child away and "he went down swinging."
Barrett said he was relieved the court ordeal was finished. He said although he didn't think Peters was sincere in his apology, he has no animosity or hatred for him.
"I think this is a bad story all the way around," he said. "I don't leave that courtroom feeling happy. I think that justice was done but him and his family are going to have a difficult road in the years to come, so will his daughter because of his actions."
He said he didn't talk a lot about his own pain and suffering to the judge because he doesn't like to feel sorry for himself and knows he could be worse off.
"Would I like to have full use of my hand? Of course I would. Would I like to shoot baskets with my kids? Of course I would. Would I like to play golf with my wife? Of course I would. I'd like to be able to tie my shoes and get my socks on quicker but that pales in comparison to what other people go through."