Saturday, February 25, 2012

Walkergate: The Universal Immunity And Other Desperate Defenses

As the gentle reader knows, there are currently five people who have been criminally charged in regard to the ongoing Walkergate investigations.  Kevin Kavanaugh and Tim Russell have been charged with embezzling funds from a veterans group.  Russell's partner, Brian Pierick, was charged with child enticement, based on evidence found in a tangent to the other investigations.  Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch have both been charged with illegal campaigning for doing political work from the Milwaukee County Courthouse during work hours.

These cases, with the exception of Wink's, is going through the usual legal processes.  Wink's case has already been resolved when she pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors.  The plea bargain was allowed due to the relative low level crimes and to the fact that she agreed to continue to work with the investigators, including on the issue of destruction of digital evidence.

What I do find interesting is the defense strategies being used in each case.

There's not been much coverage of the Kavanaugh case, but that's mostly because there's not much to cover.  There's only been the preliminary hearing and a scheduling conference.  Another reason that this case might not have had a lot of coverage is because, even though there are a lot of questions, Kavanaugh wasn't part of Walker's inner circle like the others were.

But the other three cases - Pierick, Russell and Rindfleisch - are quickly proving to be popcorn-worthy with the  defense strategies that their respective attorneys are taking.

Pierick's attorney is trying to get the case dismissed on the grounds that he didn't "intend" to go after a minor.  The state argued that intent is irrelevant and that Pierick's victim in this specific case was a minor.  The state further argued that his behavior was reckless and intent could not be used as a defense.  The ruling came down on Friday and the motion to dismiss was denied.  Pierick is to appear back in court on March 16.

Russell's attorneys have tried a couple of stunts.

The case was originally being heard by the Honorable Dennis Cimpl.  Russell's attorneys asked for a change in judges for unknown reason.  This is within his rights and was granted.

The case was moved to the court of the Honorable J.D. Watts.  Judge Watts recused himself without giving a reason.  It would be reasonable to believe that Watts knew Russell personally.  Watts' father was George Watts, a prominent Milwaukee business man and conservative.  It's possible that they could have all crossed paths at times.  If that is correct, it is a good showing for Watts and is evidence of his level of integrity.

Russell's case ended up in front of Judge David Hansher, where the case was again heard on Friday.  Russell's attorneys made a motion for a change in venue, arguing that Russell wouldn't be able to get a fair hearing in Milwaukee County due to all the publicity the case has received.

Hansher disagreed, pointing out that he handled other high profile cases, including the one against Jeffrey Dahmer, and that those cases were held successfully.  I would also point out that the coverage of Russell's arrests have been pretty much nationwide, so there is no valid reason to think that Russell wouldn't get a fair hearing in Milwaukee.

The judge did not formally deny the request yet, agreeing to review the written motion and related arguments.  However, the court also set dates for a pretrial hearing and a full trial in June.

I would suspect that Russell was holding out for an extended amount of time in order to minimize the impact of his trial on Scott Walker's chances of surviving a recall.  Remember that Russell and Walker have been very close friends for a great deal of their lives, going back at least twenty years.  Another factor is that Russell was probably hoping to get a jury from a redder part of the state, one that might be more forgiving of his transgressions as long as he did it in support of Walker.

The defense with the highest comical effect, although I'm sure it was not intentional, is the one that Rindfleisch's attorney is presenting.

The first attempt to was to try to get the case dismissed outright, stating that it was improper for the complaint to include testimony that Rindfleisch had given years ago during the caucus trials.  In other words, they were trying to argue that the immunity granted all that time ago was unlimited in time and scope - an universal immunity, if you will.

While I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the Internet, I find this laughable.  The immunity that was granted was indeed to protect her from incriminating herself...for the caucus scandals.  It was not meant to cover her for any other misdeeds she might do years later.

Rindfleisch's attorney is also trying to get a change of venue, stating that Rindfleisch should be charged in Columbia County where she lives.  In 2007, the state changed the law that would allow this for ethics and misconduct in office charges.  But the rub is that not only did the alleged crimes occur in Milwaukee County, she was considered a Milwaukee County resident for terms of her employment.  She used an address in West Allis as her home address to secure her job in the county.  Her attorney, in what I would consider to be a major gaffe, pointed out that this was not her real address.  In my humble layman's opinion, this would only mean they should charge her for falsifying government forms, her employment papers, to be able to work for Walker in Milwaukee County.

I would expect that both of these motions will be dismissed and the trial will proceed in Milwaukee County.

Meanwhile, Scott Walker's stomach must be doing flip-flops in fear of which one or ones of his former cronies might turn on him in order to protect themselves, like Wink has done.  And that's not to mention the big old Dumpster'O'Fun and whatever secret treasures that might contain and the other surprises that Walkergate has in store for him.


  1. Thanks for the comprehensive and enlightening blogpost, capper! Rindfleish's claims to immunity reveal a lack of contrition; perhaps she gave that up for lent. With regards to the change of venue requests, allow me to posit a lemma...

    Mr Russell might prefer Dane County, where there is more empathy for alternative lifestyles such as his. That may be why he and Brian made it their home when Timmy was put out to pasture by the Walker campaign whence Scooter made his move to the governor's mansion. An alternate reason for Pierick and Russell co-habitating a Sun Prairie shack was to be at the right hand of the Governor in the likelihood that Mr Russell was never severed from his job and kept up on duties serving as blowhard for the Walker campaign. Tim has always been handy in service and as such Walker has loyally allowed him to remain in backdoor positions through the years.

    Regardless, I am not against the judge moving the trial to the jurisdiction in which Mr Russell resides with his child enticing co-conspirator, but I trust the capacity of Milwaukee County to voir dire a jury of his peers in the county where Tim Russell's crimes took place. Same goes for Rindfleish.

    1. to clarify: the co-conspirator to the allegations surrounding Mr Pierick's actions is as yet an unnamed party, not Brian's lover as stated above

  2. I wonder if Milwaukee County could now sue Rindfleisch to recover the past wages (since she allegedly wasn't a Milwaukee County resident).

  3. The West Allis address she used might be interesting.

  4. A couple of questions:
    1. What are the odds that "The Wanker" had some sort of with Russell and/or Pierick and now Scotty is worried that this will come to light? Could that be the reason Russell was able to continue to work with Scotty?

    2. Who cut Scott Walker's hair?

  5. ...I have long said Scott Walker was the classic latent homosexual. Look at his wife. His pretense of heterosexuality never escaped my keen eye. Latent homosexual republicans (which is most of them, which is why they are in the party---to hide) are the most dangerous people in society.

  6. Walker was a virulently homophobic legislator while in the Assembly and yet he surrounded himself with Gays and at least one Lesbian. I have thought that this might be more than mere hypocrisy, but rather a way of insulating himself with people who could keep a secret.

  7. 7:15
    I am not sure what you mean. Weren't they openly gay? Why would that make them more likely to keep a secret? Please explain.

    1. When the story of Russell's alleged crimes was breaking, the political pundits and campaign mouthpieces were spinning their professional relationship as tangential and of little significance. This was an attempt to obfuscate the fact that Mr Russell was a top aide and asset to the Walker Campaign. Tim and Brian may have been out of the closet, but that does not mean that those who knew of their contact with Walker kept their sexual orientation a secret for as long as possible.