MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge ordered a man convicted of killing six people when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee to pay tens of thousands of dollars more in restitution Thursday, saying she wants to make sure he doesn’t profit from any potential movie or book deal.
Darrell Brooks Jr. was convicted in October of 76 charges, including six homicide counts and 61 counts of reckless endangerment, for driving through the parade in downtown Waukesha in 2021. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow sentenced him to six consecutive life sentences without parole and ordered him to pay about $171,400 in restitution in November.
Brooks drove his red Ford Escape through the parade after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed, including 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, who was marching with his baseball team, and three members of a group known as the Dancing Grannies. Scores of others were injured.
Brooks told the court that he suffered from mental illness and didn’t plan to drive into the parade route.
Dorow increased that restitution amount to $476,200 on Thursday at the request of District Attorney Susan Opper, who said she wanted to replenish taxpayer dollars that went to support Brooks’ victims. She also voiced concern that Brooks could profit by selling his story to movie makers, publishing companies or media outlets.
Brooks’ attorney, Michael Covey, argued that Opper was simply piling on Brooks. He told the judge that Brooks is extremely poor, he’ll never be able to pay anybody anything with the minuscule wages he’ll make working menial jobs in prison, and the odds that anyone would pay him for his story are “miniscule.”
“(Increasing Brooks’ restitution) is just more additional punishment, adding extra zeroes to the judgment of conviction,” Covey said.
But Dorow said Brooks would owe even more restitution than Opper was seeking if the victims hadn’t been able to draw from well-wishers’ donations.
The judge said that garnishing Brooks’ prison wages would serve as a constant reminder of the pain he caused — and that there’s a real possibility someone could pay him for his story. She ordered that any money from such deals be placed in escrow as per state law.
“You need only to look at Netflix to know crime stories are … things people want to watch,” she said.
Under Wisconsin law, anyone who agrees to pay someone convicted of a serious crime in the state for their story must deposit the money into an escrow account. The money must go first to pay any outstanding legal fees, then any court judgements, and then to cover victim claims.
Roughly $134,000 of the increased restitution amount would go to the state’s crime victim fund, a taxpayer-funded account that reimburses crime victims for losses. The rest will be divvied up among various victims’ insurance companies.
Dorow in November ordered that about $47,000 of the original restitution be used to reimburse the Waukesha school district’s insurance company because a number of of Waukesha South High School band members who were marching in the parade were hurt. The remainder was directed to the state’s crime victim compensation fund.
Brooks drove his red Ford Escape through the parade after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed and scores of others were injured. Brooks told the court that he suffered from mental illness and didn’t plan to drive into the parade route.
Brooks represented himself at trial and created a spectacle, engaging in shouting matches with Dorow, ripping off his shirt, building a fort in the courtroom out of his boxes of files and refusing to answer to his own name. The case drew so much attention Dorow tried to parlay her new-found name recognition into a failed bid for the state Supreme Court.
Brooks appeared at Thursday’s hearing via a video feed from prison. He said nothing during the proceeding. He did give a thumbs-up when asked if he could hear and shook his head in disagreement when arguments turned to creating reminders of his crimes.
The convictions came following a trial in which Brooks represented himself. He was combative throughout the proceedings, engaging in shouting matches with Dorow, arguing he isn’t subject to government restrictions and refusing to answer to his own name. He was so disruptive that Dorow often had bailiffs move him to another courtroom where she could mute his microphone.
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