The Strange Death of Judge Krueger


“I’ve got drawers full of information on the guy [Judge John Krueger]. We’re really going to chop him up.” 

Attorney Sydney M. Eisenberg, August 1968

“The harm he [Alan Eisenberg] did to my grandfather that ultimately led to his death is murder. The state Supreme Court’s decision not to permanently revoke his ability to practice law was absurd”.

Michael Krueger, April 2023

On August 28,1968, Circuit Court Judge John E. Krueger put a .38 caliber pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Sydney and Alan Eisenberg, Milwaukee attorneys with an office at 1131 East State Street, were alleged to have driven Krueger to take his own life through “vindictive and reckless harassment.” A secret investigation conducted by a judge—also known as a John Doe—was initiated. Less than 24 hours later, a nearly impenetrable web of allegations, deceit, misinformation, and outright lies had begun.

The Eisenbergs, Sydney, 54, and Alan, 29, targeted the judge for reprisal when he refused to reduce Alan’s moving violations, such as driving 100 miles an hour in a 55 zone. Krueger had a reputation as an iron-fisted jurist who displayed little or no tolerance for citizens who broke the laws. There were concerns about the judge putting pregnant women behind bars, firing a gun into the ceiling of his courtroom, and riding a reporter’s bicycle in the Safety Building hallways. There were also allegations that the judge may have displayed some bigotry when making his decisions.

The Eisenbergs and the judge had already developed an intense dislike for each other that was fostered by their battles in his courtroom. Sydney alleged that Krueger asked an attorney if he “was still working for that Jew on 11th Street” in open court.

A year after being admitted to the bar, Alan gains a reputation as a brilliant but vicious lawyer who will do anything to win his case. During the riots in the summer of 1967, a black man named John Orra Tucker kills Bryan Moschea, a white police officer, with a shotgun. During the controversial, politically charged trial, Eisenberg convinces the jury that Tucker was not guilty of first-degree murder. Sentenced to 25 years in jail for lesser charges, Tucker is paroled in less than 10 years. Alan’s first major courtroom victory leads detractors to label him a rude, abusive, disrespectful and controlling attorney. 

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After Judge Krueger would not reduce Alan’s speeding tickets, Sydney hired a private detective to gather information on the judge. He later denied doing so. The detective produced additional instances of bigotry in Krueger’s courtroom, along with evidence that Kreuger had sexual relations with Alyce Neff, a 32-year-old attorney. Neff, a former employee of the Eisenbergs, denied having an affair with the judge. After Krueger committed suicide, the elder Eisenberg was quoted as saying, “Get the broad and tell her to keep her mouth shut and everything will be all right”. On August 21, Krueger told attorney Edward Cameron. “I have had many, many women in here”, he said. “I throw their husbands in jail. They come to me to ask to get them out”. Krueger then said, “Ed, the Eisenbergs are out to ruin me. I got some information from a reporter that they are going to seek a criminal warrant for me”.

The Eisenbergs ran classified newspaper ads for months to collect complaints about the brusque, dismissive way Krueger ran his courtroom. With Edward Cameron acting as facilitator, Alan and Sydney met with the judge privately to demand his resignation. A Milwaukee Sentinel story quoted Alan Eisenberg as saying he “had something on the judge.” Days before the judge took his own life, he told reporter William Janz the position he was in. “Bill, Bill, Bill”, he said. “I’m a beaten man. I’ll lose my wife and job. Sixty-three years, all gone.” More than a year later, Edward Cameron testified that Krueger said the affair with Alyce Neff “consisted of one incident.” The night before the judge killed himself, Janz reported that Sydney Eisenberg burst into the Sentinel newsroom screaming Janz was a “bastard and a son of a bitch.” At least a half dozen people heard Eisenberg threaten to punch the reporter in the face. 

At midnight, Judge Krueger’s chambers are dark except for an old lamp that casts a pool of light on his desk. Across the room, dimly lit, is a door marked “Washroom.” At the desk, Krueger holds his head in his hands. He is crying. The judge pulls a pint bottle of liquor from a desk drawer. He tilts the bottle to his lips, takes one last gulp, and tosses the bottle into the darkness. Krueger reaches into thedrawer again and removes a .38 service revolver that belongs to his bailiff. He stands and slowly walks into the washroom. Five seconds later, there’s the sound of a gunshot. The judge’s body falls with a sickening thud, and the pistol clatters across the tile floor. Krueger dies nine hours later at Mount Sinai Hospital without ever regaining consciousness.

The John Doe, along with investigations conducted by other agencies into the possible misconduct of the Eisenbergs, went on for more than a year. Newspaper reporters, attorneys, and others close to the case testified in open court and then in a judge’s chambers. The private depositions, including a 59-minute testimony from Alyce Neff, were sealed from public viewing. In August 1969, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin charged the Eisenbergs with blackmailing a Krueger—whom they knew had an affair with a woman lawyer—into publicly naming them to oversee the administration of the judge’s court. If Kreuger didn’t comply, the Eisenbergs would reveal his indiscretions. The judge committed suicide two days later. Although they buried the courts with mountains of paperwork to drop the charges, the Eisenbergs were found guilty, and their law licenses were suspended for one year.

Alyce Neff files a $1 million lawsuit against attorney Edward Cameron, charging him with libel and slander. “These men are defaming me”, she says. “This court has permitted defamation, which is a crime”. Neff quietly leaves Milwaukee three months after the judge’s suicide. She marries paralegal Arthur Browne on December 2, 1969, in Waukegan, Illinois.

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Sydney Eisenberg paid $22,600 to have his license reinstated. In 1977 he was convicted of filing three false income tax returns and his license was again suspended until 1980. Sydney owned a significant amount of real estate in the city, including the Sydney Hih complex at Third and Juneau. Eisenberg became a hero to Milwaukee’s counterculture, renting space to actors, musicians, candle makers, bead crafters, and sandal and leather artisans among others. Privately Sydney told friends that he made a fortune renting the parking lots to MATC and the City of Milwaukee. He died in October 1985 from a heart attack. Sydney Hih was demolished in 2012.

Alan Eisenberg also paid $22,600 to have his license reinstated. His career thrived on high-profile cases involving murderers, cop killers, killer cops, and a notorious local motorcycle club. Additional run-ins with the Office of Lawyer Regulation garnered him suspensions in 1988 and 2004 and a public reprimand in 1996. In 2010 he was disbarred for his disrespectful courtroom conduct. At various times Alan became a real estate broker, animal rights advocate, radio host, baseball umpire, gubernatorial candidate and editor of El Conquistador, a weekly Hispanic newspaper. He died in 2019 at the age of 77.

The main players in the controversial 55-year-old Krueger case have since passed away.  Alyce Neff Browne is still alive, and at age 86, she’s not talking.

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