Somehow, Walker fans are jubilant that the John Doe investigation has ended, as of March 1, 2013. While Scott Walker spent nearly a half million dollars in an unprecedented criminal defense fund that he still maintains, the now terminated John Doe investigation led to criminal convictions against six individuals, including three ex-Walker aides, a campaign donor and one appointee.
Just feet from where Scott Walker sat in his Milwaukee County Executive office, Kelly Rindfleisch exchanged with Walker’s campaign managers over 1,000 emails and about 1,400 fundraising emails while on taxpayer time while using a secret email system installed by former Walker deputy chief of staff Tim Russell. Tim Russell and Kelly Rindfleisch stole $192,178 of Milwaukee County taxpayer money to run Scott Walker’s political operations while Walker was feet away. Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh stole $62,232 of funds from Operation Freedom for veterans and the families of fallen soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. There were Walker staffers, including Cullen Werwie, press secretary for the governor, and others associated with Walker who were granted prosecutorial immunity.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced that the John Doe investigation into illegal campaign activity ended on Feb. 20. Judge Neal Nettesheim made his announcement regarding the John Doe investigation, due to three specific areas of investigation:
From: Judge Neal Nettesheim (Ret.)
March 1, 2013
Upon the petition of the Milwaukee County District Attorney, I have entered an order concluding the John Doe proceeding.
The John Doe was commenced to investigate possible criminal or illegal activity in three principal areas:
- Potential illegal campaign contributions by employees of the Wisconsin Southern Railway and its president and owner William Gardner;
- Suspected campaign work by employees of the County Executive’s office
while on county time; and
- Suspected theft or misappropriation of funds earmarked for veteran’s events.
Criminal charges emanating from the John Doe were filed in all three areas of inquiry.
Although no substantive proceedings in the John Doe have occurred during recent months, I nonetheless held the John Doe open because certain of the defendants and the State required the release of various John Doe documents for use in the criminal proceedings. All of those criminal cases have now been concluded by guilty or no contest pleas by the various defendants, and those cases have been concluded. This has cleared the way for my order concluding the John Doe.
I had three principal goals when I assumed the duties as presiding judge over the John Doe. First, to assure that the matter was conducted in accord with the Wisconsin Statues governing John Doe proceedings. Second, to assure that all participants – witnesses, attorneys for witnesses, prosecutors, investigators, and court staff were treated with dignity and respect. And third, to assure that any charges resulting from the John Doe were supported by the requisite degree of probable cause mandated by the law.
Does that make Scott Walker a saint in this matter? Are Walker fans proud of the criminal charges that were produced from the John Doe investigation? Either Walker is a clueless automaton that doesn’t know what his staff was illegally doing literally feet from his office or he is looking out for himself and is willing to sacrifice staffers and throw them under the bus for his own political ambitions.
Being proud that Walker got away without any convictions is like being proud a boss didn’t notice his staff was stealing products out of the warehouse right under his nose and didn’t notice until after they got caught red-handed.
“It’s not a feather in Scott Walker’s cap that he was not charged with a crime,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski. “This is unprecedented in Wisconsin history and it speaks to the poor values of this governor.”
Perhaps State Congressman Peter Barca has the correct idea for what Walker should do now:
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) even went so far as to call on Walker to apologize for the investigation.
“While the governor was not charged, he must make a statement accepting responsibility for the people he trusted, hired and supervised and apologize to the taxpayers, particularly the veterans, who were cheated,” Barca said.
A sober review of what was revealed from the John Doe investigation is nothing for any Walker fan to be proud of.
Those charged in the probe were:
Kelly Rindfleisch — Walker’s former deputy chief of staff, Rindfleisch was convicted of illegal campaign activity and sentenced to six months in jail for illegally working on the 2010 lieutenant governor campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, while working in Walker’s Milwaukee office. Davis is now the head of the state’s Medicaid program under Walker. Although the charges centered on the Davis campaign, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf presented evidence in court that Rindfleisch traded 3,486 emails with top Walker campaign staffers, including 2,216 during regular work hours between January and October 2010 using a secret email system installed in Walker’s office. Rindfleisch’s sentence has been stayed while she appeals her conviction.
Tim Russell — Another former deputy chief of staff, Russell was convicted of taking more than $20,000 after Walker handed over control of the Operation Freedom event to him from a veterans’ group. Russell used some of the funds for vacations and for an out-of-state meeting with Republican businessman Herman Cain, who was weighing a run for president. Russell was sentenced to two years in prison.
Darlene Wink — Former constituent services director Wink got a year of probation for doing work for Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign while on county time, sending hundreds of emails related to campaign events including campaign fundraisers.
Kevin Kavanaugh — A former Walker appointee to the county’s veterans’ services committee, Kavanaugh was sentenced to two years in prison for embezzling more than $51,000 in donations intended to help veterans and their families.
Bill Gardner — The former president of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, Gardner was sentenced to two years of probation after acknowledging that he illegally laundered tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign through several of his employees.
Brian Pierick — In the final case to be resolved, Russell’s domestic partner, Pierick, was sentenced Feb. 14 to community service and a $2,100 fine on a misdemeanor delinquency charge after the investigation revealed lewd text messages sent by Pierick to a 17-year-old boy. Under a deal with prosecutors, Pierick, who said he believed the boy was 18, pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and a $2,148 fine.
While Walker still maintains his criminal defense fund and doesn’t plan on giving it up, one can assume that other investigations are continuing including what is happening with the missing millions from his pet project Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). We shall see what develops from that fiasco.