Few signs that John Doe probe will net more suspects

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When a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker is sentenced, the hearing will bring to a close the second of six cases that grew out of a long-running investigation into Walker’s office when he served as the Milwaukee County executive.

Details of the entire probe are secret, so everyone from investigators to those being investigated are prohibited from discussing details. So it’s not clear how close the so-called John Doe investigation is to wrapping up.

But there have been few indications that additional suspects will be named, at least according to sparse online court records. A total of 13 people have asked for and received immunity in exchange for their testimony, but the last time that happened was nearly six months ago.

Bruce Landgraf, an assistant district attorney leading the investigation, said he couldn’t comment on whether any more charges or suspects would be named.

So far, six people have been charged, of whom four have been convicted and one sentenced. The other two head to trial in coming months.

Walker has continually said he’s not a target of the investigation, and has not been charged. He voluntarily agreed to meet with prosecutors in April.

One of his former top aides, Kelly Rindfleisch, pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of misconduct in office, stemming from allegations that she did campaign work on the taxpayers’ time. Three similar counts were dismissed.

Rindfleisch, who was Walker’s deputy chief of staff in 2010 in the county executive’s office, is scheduled to be sentenced today. Landgraf has promised to recommend jail time and probation rather than prison. 

In a pre-sentencing memorandum released last week, Landgraf noted that Rindfleisch’s plea averted a trial that would have revealed thousands of emails she exchanged with campaigns for Walker and another Republican candidate. He also revealed that she’d apparently been on the payroll for Walker’s campaign even after she was charged.

The only person to be sentenced thus far was railroad executive William Gardner. He was sentenced to two years’ probation in July after being found guilty of exceeding state campaign donation limits and laundering campaign donations to Walker and other Wisconsin politicians.

Walker’s campaign returned the $43,800 in donations Gardner had given him.

Another Walker aide, Darlene J. Wink, pleaded guilty this summer to two misdemeanor charges of working on Walker’s gubernatorial campaign on county time. She was scheduled to be sentenced this Wednesday, but Landgraf said he’ll ask for the hearing to be postponed a third time so he could extract her continued cooperation on the prosecution of Tim Russell, another Walker associate.

Russell, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff, is charged with stealing more than $21,000 from a nonprofit Walker asked him to lead. His jury trial is set to begin Dec. 3.

Four days after that, Kevin D. Kavanaugh is scheduled to be sentenced. Kavanaugh, whom Walker had named to the county Veterans Service Commission, was found guilty last month of stealing more than $51,000 that had been donated to help veterans and their families.

The sixth person charged as a result of the probe is Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner. He is accused of child enticement, evidence of which was allegedly discovered during the investigation of one of the others.

Pierick’s jury trial is scheduled to start Jan. 29.