March 3, 2010
Judge sentences 'brain-dead' Becker to three years in prison after former Racine mayor caught buying women's underwear
Judge Stephen Simanek sentenced Racine's former mayor to three years in prison Wednesday for charges related to the Internet sex sting that nabbed Becker in January of 2009. Becker was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom and is on his way to Dodge Correctional Facility to serve his sentence.
Becker was so close to walking away with probation. Simanek said as much during the three-hour hearing that produced a number of bombshell developments a Hollywood screenwriter would struggle to invent.
The biggest, at least for Becker, was the revelation that 15 days ago he went shopping at Boston Store in Racine for young girl's underwear. District Attorney Michael Nieskes disclosed Becker bought nine panties and bras - some with butterflies and puppies on them - in small or petite sizes on his credit card. The Boston Store clerk recognized Becker and reported the purchases to police, noting Becker spent an unusually long amount of time for a man browsing in the lingerie section.
Nieskes even presented a display in court, left, showing the girlish-looking underwear.
Patrick Cafferty, Becker's attorney, tried to beat back the report by providing an affadavit from a 46-year-old woman who claimed the underwear was for her. The woman was 5-foot-3 and 103 pounds, small enough to fit the underwear.
But Simanek was having none of it. He said up to Monday he was prepared to give Becker probation for his crimes, but the disclosure about Becker's Boston Store shopping changed his mind. In his decision, Simanek pounded Becker for "a sense of arrogance and invincibility that is astounding to the core."
"Mr. Cafferty does everything humanly possible to avoid prison, and two weeks ago, Mr. Becker goes and purchases all of these items, knowing it's exactly, exactly what got him in trouble," Simanek, right, said. "It's almost like a death wish. It's almost like you have to be brain dead to not understand the significance of that."
In a near empty court room after the hearing, Simanek told Cafferty he would have given Becker probation. "If you would have told me on Monday this would happen, I wouldn't have believed you," he said.
Even with the three-year sentence, Becker got less time than the District Attorney and the state were recommending. The DA's office requested a five-year sentence and the state, which ran the sex sting that caught Becker, recommended a four-year sentence.
Becker's Boston Store shopping was only one of several major developments in the dramatic hearing.
Nieskes revealed Becker ran out of gas on the way to his fateful meeting at Brookfield Square Mall with an undercover state agent posing as a 14-year-old girl. He said Becker was so determined to reach the mall to meet with the girl that he first called his secretary to ask if she could call the State Patrol and ask them to bring him gas. He then got a friend to bring him gas so he could finish his trip to the mall - and his eventual arrest.
Nieskes also said Becker admitted to having an affair with his secretary and another city employee. Becker's secretary was Sandra Tingle, who sued the city for sexual harassment after she was fired from her job.