Judge: John Doe/ex-Walker aides investigation continues

The Associated Press

The judge overseeing the investigation into people who worked for Republican Gov. Scott Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive said on Nov. 28 that the probe is not complete and remains open.

Walker had said on Nov. 27 that he hoped the so-called “John Doe” investigation would end as early as this week. He made the comments in response to a question at a meeting of the Dairy Business Association and said afterward that he was basing his hope on media accounts and a general feeling that the investigation was winding down.

But retired Waukesha County Judge Neal Nettesheim told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home that anyone guessing that the probe was coming to an end was engaging in “pure conjecture.”

“The John Doe is not completed,” Nettesheim said. “It is still open.”

The investigation into Walker’s former aides and associates during his time as Milwaukee County executive began in May 2010, six months before he was elected governor. Six people have been charged with crimes including misconduct in office and theft, but Walker has not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing. 

Walker said early this week that he was “absolutely” confident that he was not the target of the investigation. On Nov. 28, when asked to respond to the judge’s comment that the probe was still active, the governor reiterated that he had no inside knowledge that it was nearing an end, but that was simply his hope.

“It hasn’t stopped us from doing our job,” he said after giving a 45-minute speech to the state’s chamber of commerce about his priorities for next year. “My focus hasn’t changed.”

Walker said he would be “happy and hopeful it would be done this week.”

Bruce Landgraf, an assistant district attorney leading the investigation, has declined to comment on its status.

Six people have been charged so far as a result of the probe:

• Tim Russell, a former deputy chief of staff for Walker in his county office, reached a plea deal with prosecutors in a felony embezzlement case. Russell was charged with embezzling more than $20,000 from a veterans group that Walker assigned him to lead. 

• Kelly Rindfleisch, another former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to a felony count of misconduct in office after she did campaign work on taxpayers’ time. Three similar counts were dismissed. She was sentenced last week to six months in jail.

• Kevin D. 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. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7.

• Darlene Wink, a former Walker aide, pleaded guilty this summer to two misdemeanor charges of working on Walker’s gubernatorial campaign on county time. She has a Jan. 10 sentencing hearing.

• William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., 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.

• Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner, was charged with child enticement, evidence of which was allegedly discovered during the investigation of Russell. Pierick’s jury trial is scheduled to start Jan. 29.