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Ex-judge pleads guilty to federal child porn distribution charges, faces at least 5 years in prison
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FEDERAL COURT | CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

Ex-judge pleads guilty to federal child porn distribution charges, faces at least 5 years in prison

A former Milwaukee County children's court judge pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to two counts of distributing child pornography, assuring that he will spend at least five years in prison because of a mandatory minimum sentence for the crime.

Brett R. Blomme, 39, of Cottage Grove, will be sentenced Dec. 22 by U.S. District Judge James Peterson. Each of the child porn distribution counts carries up to 20 years in prison, but advisory federal sentencing guidelines, along with the terms of a plea agreement signed in the case in August, all but rule out a sentence that long.

While each of the two counts carries a mandatory minimum of five years, it's likely the sentences would run at the same time because they arise from the same criminal activity.

Blomme still faces seven counts of child porn possession in Dane County Circuit Court, but the plea agreement in the federal case states that the agreement resolves all state and federal charges for any known criminal conduct. An informal pretrial conference is scheduled Thursday in the Dane County case.

Blomme has remained in custody since he first appeared in court on the federal charges in May. The federal charges state Blomme distributed child pornography to others through the Kik Messenger app.

Brett Blomme

Blomme

The state charges were filed in March after an investigation that began Feb. 11 following a tip forwarded to the state Division of Criminal Investigation by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The tip concerned a Kik Messenger app user, later identified as Blomme, who had uploaded apparent child pornography through Kik on 27 occasions in October and November 2020, a criminal complaint states.

In court Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Elgersma said DCI received the tip from NCMEC on Jan. 28, and that it concerned a Kik user with the screen name "DomMasterBB" who had uploaded images that appeared to be child pornography.

A search warrant for the Kik account revealed Blomme's Gmail address connected to it. Elgersma said IP data showed the DomMasterBB Kik account had been used at Blomme's home in Cottage Grove and at the Milwaukee County government building where Blomme's judicial office was located.

Blomme, who formally resigned from office on Sept. 1, had been suspended without pay by the state Supreme Court since March. He had been on the bench for about eight months, having started work in August 2020 after his election about four months earlier to Milwaukee County's Branch 5.

In addition to Cottage Grove, where Blomme lives with his husband and their children, Blomme owns a home in Milwaukee. There has been no indication the children are victims in the case. Elgersma said Tuesday the children in the two images Blomme was charged with distributing were identified through hashtag values of the files as being known child exploitation victims.

State Courts Director Randy Koschnick sent a letter to Peterson last month asking that the state court system be considered a victim in the case and asked that Koschnick be allowed to speak at Blomme's sentencing hearing. The letter itself is sealed in the court file, but Koschnick provided it to the State Journal.

In the letter, Koschnick said Blomme should have resigned immediately to allow Gov. Tony Evers the opportunity to quickly appoint a successor. By doing so, Koschnick wrote, Blomme also would have signaled that he agreed with the state Supreme Court that he was "unable to properly discharge his official duties" and was not entitled to taxpayer salary and benefits. Koschnick also questioned whether Blomme was really in compliance with the state Constitution's requirement that Blomme "reside in the circuit from which elected," given that he lived in Cottage Grove.

The court system as a whole has suffered, Koschnick wrote.

"By refusing to resign from his judicial position, Mr. Blomme has placed his self-interest ahead of the interests of the children, families and community that he was originally elected to serve," Koschnick wrote. "In addition, media reports about a children's court judge uploading child pornography from within the courthouse have tarnished the reputation of the judiciary and the sanctity of the court system."

A police search of the Children's Court, conducted as part of the investigation, Koschnick wrote, "left an indelible stain on that institution and the people who work there."

Peterson ordered Blomme's attorney, Chris Van Wagner, and Elgersma to file briefs on the issue by the middle of October, and said Koschnick may also respond to Van Wagner's brief should he want to.


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