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Top-secret probe of Scott Walker ends without charges

By   /   March 1, 2013  /   News  /   24 Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – The John Doe probe is no more.

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the … John Doe investigation Shall be, and hereby is, closed.”

With that pronouncement from former state Appeals Court Judge Neal Nettesheim, the nearly three-year John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s former aides and associates, when Walker served as Milwaukee County executive, ended.

Much to the dismay and disbelief of liberals and many in the Democratic Party, Walker walks away Scott-free from a super-secret probe with an ever-widening scope that led to charges against six people, and the convictions of three of Walker’s former assistants.

The long investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's former aides comes to a close without any charges of wrongdoing by Walker.

IT’S OVER: The long investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s former aides comes to a close without any charges of wrongdoing by Walker.

The John Doe investigation, which brought in untold witnesses and involved untold investigative hours and tax dollars, was in large part fuel to fire a Democratic Party of Wisconsin and organized labor recall movement against the Republican governor, a campaign Walker easily survived.

“I am glad the process had been completed,” the governor said in a statement, noting the investigation was spurred in 2010 when then- Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s asked Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm “to look into concerns” Walker had with a veterans program. Walker aide Timothy D. Russell in January was sentenced to two years in prison, after pleading guilty to taking more than $21,000 from Walker’s pet program for veterans, Operation Freedom.

“We appreciate the effort that was undertaken and to bring appropriate matters to justice,” Walker added in the statement.

Asked for further comment, Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie directed Wisconsin Reporter to the governor’s political campaign. Werwie was granted immunity in the probe in exchange for his answers under oath.

The meat of the investigation involved allegations of county executive aides campaigning for Walker on the taxpayer’s dime. Walker was running for governor at the time.

Darlene Wink, who served as Milwaukee County constituent services coordinator for Walker, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of campaigning for the candidate on public time. And former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch was sentenced late last year to six months in jail for campaign fundraising at the courthouse, where she used a secret email system, according to court documents.

Democrats sounded less-than-convinced by Chisholm’s pronouncement that he was “satisfied that all charges that are supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt have now been brought and concluded.” In other words, Walker, who was not accused of any wrongdoing during the probe, was not and will not be charged in the case.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, called on Walker to “take responsibility for the criminal activity that happened on his watch.”

“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 in a statement.

“Now Governor Walker must address these problems and let the people of Wisconsin know how he will prevent illegal activity that happened in his offices from happening again. He also must pledge to do better for our citizens in the future,” Barca added.

Wisconsin Constitutional law expert Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and adjunct law professor at Marquette University, would disagree with Barca’s assertion.

“I guess Scott Walker, at least in so far as he ran the county executive office, is certifiably not guilty,” he said. “I apologize for the term, but this guy (Walker)  has gotten a legal proctological examination and he passed.”

While Esenberg credits the district attorney for “not bringing some trumped-up charge” against Walker, he said the investigation was fraught with politics and riddled with leaks to media, exposures that became political footballs in deeply partisan times.

“I think the public has reason to wonder whether this is a good use of public resources,” Esenberg said of the ever-widening probe.

Wisconsin Reporter has requested an accounting of the cost of the John Doe investigation from the Milwaukee County D.A.’s office. As of this post, that information had not been received.

The investigation did lead to the guilty plea of Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner, on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Pierick had been charged with felony enticement of a child and causing a child to expose his genitals, before cutting a deal with prosecutors.

The John Doe probe and the shadow surrounding Walker added fuel to the fire of the recall campaign that sought Walker’s ouster.

Had Walker lost the recall election, voters would have been left with the same conclusion to the investigation, and a duly elected governor would have been out of a job, Esenberg said.

“It’s the old story, where do I go to get my reputation back?” Esenberg said of a point that the law expert asserts should not be dismissed as a hypothetical counterfactual.

Contact Matt Kittle at [email protected]


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.

  • Jack Lohman

    Not found innocent, just not found guilty. If he had six aides that broke the law and he wasn’t aware, he is not an informed leader. How much money did he spend on defense?

  • Barb Karnowski

    Is Chris Barrett in jail because she openly campaigned and used public resources as a teacher when Tom Barrett ran for governor? Were any questions even asked by the media? How about the union reps using public resources at that time in their government jobs? Walker would have been a fool not to prepare to defend himself when it was so obvious that the Democratic DA, the press, the unions and all the liberals were out to get him by any means necessary.

  • Dick Keller


  • Jack Lohman

    Dig hole, insert head. I love it. And that from a guy who voted for Romney.

  • I’m very happy with this and hope he runs for President.

  • Roy

    Mr. Lohman, you sound bitter because Walker and the Republicans control all 3 branches of governance in this state. Three years ago it was the Dems who controlled it all. I imagine you would be all in favor of Walker getting convicted of “guilt by association”. That would be a good law to have, only used against Republicans of course. 🙂

  • Stryder51

    Wasn’t he the one who called for the investigation? Yes, he was. Case closed. Move on.

  • Joel B.

    @ Lohman—The investigation was NOT even directed at Scott Walker.

  • Jack Lohman

    Really? Why did he spend so much on a defense attorney?

  • Name

    He should stick to his music. Tilt is a great album.

  • JDredd

    Not even charged at all Mr. Lohman! You need that first before being found innocent or guilty of any crime.

  • Jack Lohman

    You obviously are unaware of the effects of gerrymandering, which began when Walker took charge. It’s the (illegal) reallocating of the votes. Even Karl Rove said “if you want to control elections, control (the voting districts).”

    Look, I am (normally) a Republican, but I put honest government first. I am not a blind partisan. I have spoken directly with Walker about campaign funding. I was not impressed, especially since he went on to collect $40 million from the David Kochs of the world.

  • wiprof

    Barca is an idiot. Walker asked for the veterans’ fund investigation and chisholm turned it into a witch hunt. Walker did the right thing and chisholm was an opportunist. And Barca wants to make political hay of the whole thing. What a shameless idiot.

  • exactly, where does one GO TO GET HIS//HER REPUTATION BACK

  • stop whining, the state is prosperous again thanks to the governor, while the country is in the shits thanks to the dems and their spend, spend, spend

  • Jack Lohman

    Wow, so all Dems are bad and all R’s are good! I feel better now. Glad to see that R’s are not spenders.

  • —gracious sakes alive– after over two hundred years of gerrymandering, , for a hundred of those favoring Demo’s–all of sudden it’s illegal?

  • Franseenit

    Your comment “speaks ‘highly’ of your lack of intelligence”

  • Franseenit

    Prosperous??? What garbage are you reading. Wisconsin has not suddenly become prosperous since W’ started ruling by fiat! There is nothing in his manner of ‘getting things done’ that is fair or honest and certainly is not making us prosperous. Wisconsin is one of the top ten states losing high paying jobs and professionals at a dramatic rate.

  • ConLawyer

    Please share with us your authority for calling gerrymandering “illegal.” The U.S. government has over the last several decades, under the auspices of the “Voting Rights Act,” mandated voting districts that defy common sense in order to achieve a desired [leftist] political objective – voting by race, largely in violation of well-established federalism considerations. It is axiomatic that the party that controls a state government gets to set the voting district boundaries, and it has been practiced by both parties.

  • And we were #8 in 2009.

  • So you came out loudly against the Democrats when they last did it? I don’t recall your voice Jack Lohman.

  • 13 people granted immunity in John Doe probe. You are okay with that Dick!

  • Wisconsin ranks #44 in private sector job creation. Is that your ideas of being prosperous..lol