MONFILS SIX: Dale Basten granted parole due to failing health

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - One of the "Monfils Six" has been granted parole 22 years after he was
sentenced to life for a murder that shocked the Green Bay area.

Dale Basten, 76, is being placed in an assisted living facility in the Fox Valley, according to a parole decision obtained by Action 2 News.

The Department of Corrections document states that the parole commissioner has "personally witnessed [redacted] to worsen significantly since [redacted], presently to the point where you seem unaware of your surroundings and communicate very little."

The parole commissioner's recommendation states that Basten's conduct during his time in prison was satisfactory. The commissioner notes there is "no known victim opposition in your case."

The Parole Chair ordered Basten be released from Dodge Correctional Institution no sooner than Sept. 5. Basten will be monitored by the Department of Corrections and will be subject to electronic monitoring for the rest of his life.

Basten and five other men were convicted of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in 1995 for the death of paper mill co-worker Tom Monfils.

Basten is the second of the "Monfils Six" to be released from prison. In 2001, Michael Piaskowski's conviction was overturned for lack of evidence and he was freed.

Keith Kutska, Michael L. Johnson, Reynold Moore, and Michael Hirn remain behind bars. The Parole Board has either denied or deferred their requests for parole.

The men have long argued their innocence. A theory that Monfils killed himself has been presented in court.

THE CRIME

In 1992, Tom Monfils's body was recovered from a pulp vat at the James River mill in Green Bay.

Three years later, police arrested the Monfils Six and they were charged
with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide.

The prosecution said the men conspired to kill Monfils, who had heard Kutska talk about stealing an electrical cord from the mill. It is alleged that Monfils reported it to police, but his anonymity was compromised when Kutska obtained a tape of Monfils' call to police.

The prosecution accused Kutska and the other men of forming a group to take revenge on Monfils.

Investigators said Monfils had been beaten and a weight had been tied around his neck.

Another co-worker told police that Kutska had told him all the details of
the killing of Monfils.

That led police to arrest the Monfils Six. They were convicted at jury
trial.

SUICIDE CLAIM

In 2015, Keith Kutska was granted an evidentiary hearing to allow his
attorneys to present a theory that Tom Monfils killed himself. Kutska's case has been taken up by the Minnesota Innocence Project, a group
that works to get new trials for people they believe were falsely convicted of crimes.

Some witnesses claimed law enforcement intimidated them into signing
statements that were not true. Tom Monfils' brother, Cal, also believes his brother killed himself.

Kutska's attorneys questioned lead investigator Randy Winkler about a lack of physical evidence in the mill.

Attorney: "During the entire course of your investigation you found no blood anywhere in the mill that was connected, or could be connected to any beating of Mr. Monfils."

Winkler: "That is correct."

A judge ruled there was not evidence to grant Kutska a new trial. The judge said some of the arguments presented at the evidentiary hearing were "speculation" and he didn't think a jury would reach a different verdict if the case was re-tried.

Kutska appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The state's high court denied a petition to review his appeal.

Kutska is now asking the United States Supreme Court to review the decision of a lower court.

PAROLE DECISION

The parole chair's decision in the Dale Basten case describes the killing of Tom Monfils as a "heartless and heinous crime."

"The record and facts of this case reflects you participated in this homicide yet the strength of the brotherhood bond with your co-actors has acted as a concealment of the details: no one has ever come forth and told the complete truth as to how the victim died at your and/or the hands of your co-workers," reads the parole chair's decision.

On Aug. 10, the parole chair, parole commissioner, and Department of Corrections officials met with Basten.

"It is clear from this encounter that you have little or no orientation as to your surroundings," reads the chair's decision.

The chair says death in prison is a fitting punishment for the crime, but "the laws governing Parole Commission decisions do not operate in such a manner."

Brown County Judge James Bayorgeon, the official who handed down sentences to the Monfils Six, supported a decision to grant parole to Basten. Cal Monfils also supported Basten's release.

"Though not a factor in considering your release, the Commission is mindful of the fact that as you sit in [redacted] of a maximum security prison - which is required given your overall [redacted] taxpayers are paying $93,000 a year to house you," reads the parole chair's decision.

In the end, the parole chair noted that "based upon the sentencing Judge's sentiment, your release from prison at this time does not depreciate the seriousness of your crime."

PAROLE ELIGIBILITY

Kutska, Johnson, Moore, and Hirn are still able to request parole.

Moore is eligible in 2017, and the other three men are eligible in 2018.



 
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