WAUKESHA, Wisc. – FIRST ON FOX: Days before Waukesha parade suspect Darrell Brooks Jr. allegedly mowed down dozens of pedestrians at a Christmas celebration, he evaded jail for a third time despite his alarming criminal history, court records show.
Brooks, a career felon and deadbeat dad who owes more than $40,000 in unpaid child support, fell further behind on payments earlier this year and found himself in contempt of a Waukesha paternity court. But he blamed a six-month Georgia jail stint for keeping him out of work, and thus unable to pay, during a Nov. 16 hearing.
He should’ve spent 120 days in jail over the contempt order, court records show. But he received a stay on the condition that he fork over some money – which he again failed to do.
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At the November hearing, the court commissioner agreed that the Georgia jail time — for allegedly beating up the same woman he allegedly ran over with his SUV on Nov. 2 in Wisconsin — prevented Brooks from working and earning money to pay his obligations. So he stayed the contempt order again – even though Brooks hadn’t made payments since 2019.
“Based on incarceration of Mr. Brooks for 6 months prior, court quashes the capias & reinstates the stay of contempt; released on this matter,” Commissioner David Herring wrote after a hearing on whether Brooks should be locked up on Nov 16, five days before the deadly parade attack.
The Waukesha County Corporation Counsel’s office, which is handling the paternity case, did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
But David Sielaff, an attorney with the office, had asked the court to lift the stay and incarcerate Brooks at the hearing, court records show.
The court ultimately released Brooks on his own recognizance – without bail – and asked him to provide proof of his Georgia jail time. The hearing, in a Waukesha court, took place just after 1 p.m. – shortly after Brooks bailed out of a Milwaukee jail for an unrelated case.
Unlike Brooks pending felony cases in Milwaukee and Nevada, the paternity issue did not take place in criminal court and his outstanding charges may not have been a consideration, experts told Fox News Digital.
“Did the court have another chance to jail him? Absolutely,” said James Scozzari, a Michigan-based criminal defense attorney. “But it’s an unrelated matter and I don’t know if they’re going to take into consideration all this other stuff that happened.”
But Mike Padden, another criminal defense attorney based in Minnesota, said the court missed another opportunity to keep Brooks off the streets.
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“It’s another example of the system giving this guy a hand slap,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t agree with the notion that they’re both separate. He’s before a judicial official and his record will come up, and it’s another opportunity for the system to keep him in custody if he has a pending warrant.”
On the other hand, the Supreme Court has ruled that failure to pay child support due to poverty can’t land the perpetrator in jail, John Gross, a defense attorney and clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, said Tuesday.
“This sort of is one of the problems with enforcement mechanisms for child support: Basically, you can’t squeeze blood from a stone,” he said. “You can’t just lock somebody up because of their poverty. They’re gonna have to prove that he had the ability to pay and didn’t.”
It’s not the first time a legal technicality sent Brooks back out on the streets.
In February, due to COVID-19 backlogs and his right to a speedy trial, a judge had to release Brooks on $500 bail in connection with a 2020 incident in which he allegedly shot at his nephew and another woman, striking no one.
While Brooks was free in that case, he racked up additional domestic violence charges in Georgia and Milwaukee – and then allegedly plowed through the Waukesha Christmas parade.
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Milwaukee Court Commissioner Cedric Cornwall had another chance to set a higher bail for Brooks in early November – but he agreed to a prosecutor’s request for just $1,000 despite a criminal record stretching back to 1999, the open felony case and an active warrant out of Nevada for allegedly bail jumping on a sex crime charge.
In a pretrial assessment for that case, an investigator raised red flags about Brooks’ potential to commit new crimes and fail to return to court.
Then on Nov. 21, he allegedly drove into the Waukesha Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring 62.
Eight-year-old Jackson Sparks succumbed to his injuries two days after the attack. Police previously identified five adults killed Sunday as Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.