Former Children's Court judge sentenced to 9 years for child porn

Brett Blomme
Brett Blomme

MADISON -- A former Milwaukee County Children's Court judge was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison for transmitting child pornography in the fall of 2020, less than six months after he was elected.

Brett Blomme, 39, an openly gay married father of two, had been elected less than a year before he was arrested in March on state child porn charges. In May, he was indicted on two federal charges and pleaded guilty in September.

Blomme appeared in court wearing orange jail clothing and shackles. He apologized to the children in the videos and his colleagues in the court system. He said since his arrest he has come to learn his repression as a gay teen in rural Iowa may have led to his deviant desires.

He said he still considers himself lucky. His husband, parents, brother and longtime friend were in court to support him. "All I can do is work to be a better Brett in the future."

Each federal count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, and federal prosecutors recommended an overall sentence of more than 12 years. The plea agreement calls for the dismissal of the state charges.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson cited several aggravating factors in the case. One was the nature of the pornography. He called it "sadistic treatment of toddlers," "extreme victimization" and "the worst of the worst."

Peterson also said he couldn't ignore the fact Blomme was a sitting judge when he shared such images. Peterson noted that no matter the objective quality of Blomme's work on the bench, his crime will not make every family that appeared before him have doubts about his decisions.

And though Blomme did not abuse the power of the office to commit his crimes, they "still left a huge stain on the judiciary."

Peterson said he didn't think Blomme's explanation of suppressing his sexual identification as a teen made sense, saying there's no proven correlation between being gay and an interest in pedophilia.

On top of the concurrent nine-year prison terms, Peterson added 20 years of supervision when Blomme is released, and a mandatory $5,000 assessment under the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

More: Milwaukee County Children's Court Judge Brett Blomme charged with 7 counts of child pornography

Messaging app, courthouse use

The state charges alleged that Blomme used the messaging app Kik to share at least 27 images and videos of young boys being abused. Investigators served search warrants at his home in Cottage Grove, a friend's home in Milwaukee and his chambers at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center in Wauwatosa. Both the state and federal charges were based only on uploads from Cottage Grove, in Dane County.

The case began with a tip from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which tracks child pornography. Blomme used his real name and birthdate to set up a Kik account under the name DomMasterbb.

In seeking the 12 1/2 year sentence, prosecutors called Blomme "unequivocally a danger to the community," and cited his text messages expressing interest in sex with minors.

"He targeted children online, talked with people who had the same desires, and considered different ways to gain access to potential victims," the government's sentencing memo reads.

Van Wagner, Blomme's attorney, urged the minimum five-year sentence. He said extra prison time won't deter others with similar problems and urges, like it might deter doctors from considering whether to commit fraud, for instance.

More: Former Milwaukee County Children's Court judge Brett Blomme convicted of child porn charges faces at least five years in prison

"He wants the serious help he needs, for his porn addiction (with its underlying root causes) and for his alcohol abuse," Van Wagner wrote in a sentencing memo.

"These political battles have left Blomme publicly scourged, scrutinized and scalded in ways that are unlike what happens to most who are similarly accused. Those facts mitigate any need for extreme punishment."

Van Wagner noted that the case was purely a state investigation and that most first-time child porn offenders usually face a three-year sentence. Then, federal authorities were "asked" to indict him, " in a move apparently intended to get a

longer-term in prison then three years in this, a high profile media case."

"He has helped others overcome the scourge of gender discrimination," Van Wagner wrote. "And in a terrible irony this summer, he also became a frequent social media poster child for vicious right-wing attacks on progressive politicians, including the sitting governor of Wisconsin. "

More: Milwaukee County judge indicted for child porn formally resigns. Gov. Evers is taking applications for an appointment to fill his seat.

Before being elected judge, Blomme served as the president and CEO of Cream City Foundation, which supports the LGBTQ community. Previously, he had worked as an assistant public defender in Dane and other western counties.

Questions about his residency arose during the election campaign. He said he was living in a house in Milwaukee, and that his husband — who works for the University of Wisconsin Health — and children lived in the couple's Cottage Grove home.

The couple has two adopted children, who were not part of any illegal images. Blomme's sentencing memo indicated he has remained in contact via daily video chats from jail. The children did not attend Wednesday's sentencing.

In the April 2020 vote, Blomme defeated an incumbent who had been appointed by Gov. Scott Walker, Paul Dedinsky, and a second challenger. He began service as a judge in Children's Court in Wauwatosa in August 2020.

His arrest in March shocked many supporters, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who had appointed him as chair of the Board of Zoning Adjustment and had recommended him to Gov. Tony Evers for a judicial appointment in 2019.

More: Milwaukee County Children's Court judge facing state child porn charges now hit with federal indictment

State courts a victim?

Wednesday's hearing included an unusual appearance by Wisconsin's Director of State Courts, Randy Koschnick, who had asked to make a victim impact statement.

Blomme's attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, opposed Koschnick's appearance, saying the court system was not a "victim" under federal sentencing law. Allowing others outside the definition to be heard, Van Wagner argued, would let sentencings "devolve into cacophonic town halls or courtroom lynch mobs, politicized beyond recognition."

As soon as he was arrested in March, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Blomme without pay, on the grounds that he was "unable to properly discharge his official duties." Blomme was free on conditions until his federal indictment in May, since he has been detained.

But since he was not given any notice or process, Blomme is seeking his withheld pay from then until his formal resignation in September. Wisconsin circuit judges earn $147,535 annually.

Koschnick said the state spent more than $50,000 on reserve judges to fill in for Blomme after his suspension.

Van Wagner said there are four legal ways the state could have removed Blomme from office, and ended his pay, none of which were used. Instead, it ignores two constitutional principles -- presumption of innocence and right to a trial.

In his brief remarks Wednesday, Koschnick, a circuit judge in Jefferson County for 18 years before taking his current position, said kids and families who had been on Blomme's caseload lost continuity after his calendar was suddenly transferred to other judges.

He also said other judges and staff at Milwaukee's children's court were greatly affected by investigators searching Blomme's chambers and courtroom, and the ongoing media coverage of the case.

"It reflected poorly on the system in general," he said.

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ex Wisconsin Children's Court judge gets 9 years in child porn case