Scott Walker, Governor of FitzWalkerStan, does it again. He's the Teflon Man. He and the rest of his cadre of cronies are now officially off the hook in the Milwaukee County John Doe Probe that has lasted over 2 years.
In a sense, Scott Walker gets away "Scott free".
Hope is not lost, however, There remains a federal John Doe involving Walkers time as Milwaukee County Executive. Unfortunately, although it involves Milwaukee County property deals, there hasn't been any public information available.
6 close associates of Walker were charged and convicted after plea bargains with prosecutors. 2 are currently incarcerated.
Nearly three years after the probe was launched, retired Appeals Court Judge Neal Nettesheim signed an order shutting down the secret investigation.
"After a review of the John Doe evidence, I am satisfied that all charges that are supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt have now been brought and concluded," (Milwaukee County District Attorney John) Chisholm said in a statement. "As a consequence, last week my office petitioned for, and Judge Nettesheim has granted, the closure of the John Doe investigation."(information in italics is mine for clarification)
Scott Walker is elated, of course. For over a year RW media in the state has been pounding away at the John Doe prosecutors, accusing them of political bias, "a witch hunt", and combing through Walker recall petitions looking for signatures of prosecutors, DA office staff, or family members. Anything found became "major news" on the multiple RW radio stations in Wisconsin as well as receiving corporate media attention and air time on Fox Made Up News. Now, Walker has nothing but praise for them.
Walker issued a statement Friday thanking the prosecutors for their work. He met with officials in Chisholm's office last year for a sometimes contentious interview, according to sources.Of course, the rest of us are rather dejected that the Teflon Man has gotten off.
Throughout the proceeding, the first-term Republican governor said he had been assured he was not a target. He retained two top-level criminal defense lawyers - Michael Steinle of Milwaukee and John Gallo of Chicago - to assist him with the case.
Over the past year, their firms were paid nearly $200,000 from Walker's defense fund.
"I am glad the process has been completed," Walker said. "As many may remember, this entire matter began when we asked the district attorney to look into concerns we had with respect to Operation Freedom. We appreciate the effort that was undertaken and to bring appropriate matters to justice."
"That Scott Walker avoided prosecution is no feather in his cap," Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said. "The crimes convicted flow directly from Scott Walker's belief that he is above the law."
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.
It's interesting to note that the John Doe Probe was expanded 8 times during the course of the investigation.
While Wisconsin RW radio shills are dancing a jig at the news, others see this as a successful escape.
Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski responded on Twitter in his characteristically colorful manner:
“(Walker) spent half a million dollars and bought the silence of a dozen people to avoid criminal charges. Dirty as the day is long.”
And later: “(Walker's) GREATEST accomplishment is dodging criminal charges. That's it. Jobs suck. He's ruined our state. Period.”
Lisa Subeck, director of United Wisconsin, a progressive group that led the drive to recall Walker, says she is disappointed with the investigation's results but is optimistic that the convictions the investigation brought for Walker’s former aides have opened voters’ eyes to the “corruption” of Walker’s inner circle.
“While there may not have been evidence to charge him, it’s unbelievable that he didn’t know what was going on,” she says. “There were secret Internet routers in his office so that his staff could do campaign work and the idea that he didn’t know about it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Said Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now: “Perhaps now that the investigation is concluded, Gov. Walker will see fit to disclose who was bankrolling his half-million-dollar legal defense in this criminal probe.”
While Ross and others will continue to go after Walker for his associations with convicted felons, the attacks will likely diminish now that the case has been closed and it does not appear the governor is in legal jeopardy.
Here's the press release from the DAs office (warning pdf file). One statement of interest:
“The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office follows a policy of filing charges only where it believes proof beyond a reasonable doubt supports the allegations in a criminal complaint.”
With uncooperative witnesses, huge money and big time law firms involved in Walkers criminal defense fund, "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" might have been in short supply. Considering the cases they brought in the John Doe all resulting in plea bargains rather than trials, one can assume that they were only prosecuting iron clad cases. That would have needed to have been the case against Scott Walker who would have had law firms parachuting into the state to defend him.
As I have said before, the smoking gun email was certainly suspicious. It follwed the publishing of an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about his County Executive staff doing campaign and political work for Walker in a taxpayer facility on taxpayer time. It was only later that we discovered that the "system" worked through a secret router than enabled his staff to use various screen names to post pro-Walker, anti-opposition comments in state and local blogs, use their private email accounts for campaign and political purposes, and to fundraise for Republican candidates.
The email, sent by Walker on his personal and private email service to Timothy Russell ordered "no laptops, no web sites" for his staff. At the time Russell wasn't even on Walkers staff; he was the Director of Housing for Milwaukee County, yet he responded to Walker that he had "taken down the router".
THAT email said that Walker knew of the clandestine operation, was aware of what his staff was doing (and how they were doing it), and knew who had set everything up. However, that may not have been enough to present a case against a guy with unlimited resources and huge media megaphones at his disposal.
Yes, I'm disappointed. Hugely disappointed. But the fight continues to save my state. Walker, despite his major presence on RW radio and fawning corporate media, is none too popular. Recent polls indicate his favorability below 50% despite his new "tax cuts" budget (yeah, if you're a low wage worker you get about 5 bucks a year, but if you're wealthy you get a whole pile more payola - it's the Republican way). He's also working hard to privatize everything, sell off power plants, take over the Milwaukee County Board, ensure our state becomes one huge strip mine, refuse Medicaid expansion, and carry on the Tea Bagger Agenda. More people (in their own lives) are seeing who and what Walker and his pals represent. And they don't like it.
2014 is coming.
PS: Anyone near a computer from now until 6:30 PM Central Time might want to listen live to Sly's show here.