Friday, April 6, 2012

Walkergate: The Russell Gambit

There has been yet another new twist in the tale of Tim Russell and his role in Walkergate.

Russell, a long time close personal friend of Scott Walker and a GOP operative, was among the first arrested and charged in the ongoing John Doe investigation commonly referred to as Walkergate.  He was arrested and charged for embezzling funds from the program Operation Freedom.  Operation Freedom was the political stunt thrown by Walker on the pretense of honoring veterans and their families by having supporters contribute to a free day at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

As Russell's trial has progressed, we have learned that he had retained, not just one, but two, high-priced attorneys to defend him.  Russell had originally retained Michael Maistelman and Andrew Franklin.  Franklin recently withdrew from the case and was replaced by Attorney John A. Birdsall.

But Birdsall, after being on the case for only 16 days, has put in a motion to withdraw from the case.

Per WisPolitics, the issue appears to be Russell being unsure how to proceed:

Birdsall said he appeared in court March 28 to confirm that he was the lead counsel. He said he met privately that day with Maistelman and Dennis Krueger, a criminal defense lawyer who recently joined Masitelman’s firm. 
“I reaffirmed, and I understood it to be agreed, that I would be the sole lead counsel and spokesperson for Mr. Russell,” Birdsall wrote in the brief, adding that he later got the discovery information from Franklin. 
Maistelman, Krueger and Russell were supposed to meet at Birdsall’s office on March 30. The three didn't show up, but Birdsall said he got a call from Krueger who relayed Russell’s “doubts” on how to go forward. Three days later, Birdsall said he talked to Krueger, who said he was taking the lead in representing Russell. 
In his request to withdraw from the case, Birdsall said he wouldn't be able to provide effective representation. 
“I have not had any contact whatsoever with my client since that date and, based on representation by another attorney (not currently attorney of record) it appears unlikely that I will have such contact,” Birdsall wrote in his motion.
Birdsall said he doesn't know what happened, but asked to be relieved of his responsibility to represent Russell
Some observers see this as a stall tactic on Russell's part, trying to buy time for his buddy Walker as the recall election looms just two months away.  There is a certain logic to this and would be an easy conclusion to reach.

However, I would propose a different theory.  

While it is true that Russell was more than just a friend to Walker, being one of Walker's top lieutenants and entrusted with many important aspects of the campaign (albeit almost all illegal), there has been word that Walker and Russell are on the outs.  Word is that Russell feels betrayed by Walker, and probably rightfully so.  Apparently, Russell has been reaching out to Walker and other Republicans, asking for financial assistance but only getting rebuffed.

Also, keep in mind that Russell has only been charged with embezzlement for now.  However, he is implicated, if not out right named, in almost every other criminal complaint issued in relation to Walkergate.  He is implicated as being the partner of Brian Pierick, his domestic partner, in child enticement charges.  He is repeatedly mentioned in the criminal charges against Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch.  

Russell could be charged with so much more than just embezzlement.  And the District Attorney's Office has enough on him that they could probably put him away for life, or darn near close to it.  This has to be weighing heavily on Russell's mind. While I have no way of knowing if prosecutors have been using these facts on Russell, I am sure he's thought about it, time and time again, on his own.

In conclusion, while it might very well be just a stall tactic for his good friend, I think what we're seeing happening in Russell's case is a manifestation of Russell's internal struggle between his willingness to "take one for the team" versus his instinct of self-preservation finally kicking in and his slowly dawning realization that Walker would be willing to throw even him under the bus if it became convenient, if not necessary, to do so.  It could be very well that Russell is positioning himself for a  plea bargain, much akin to the one given to Darlene Wink.

If that were to happen, not only would it blow Walkergate wide open, it would effectively end Walker's political career.  Or at least one would hope.


  1. (This was posted back on 31JAN @ DK and builds on the story above)

    Something to consider:

    Russell's partner, Brian Pierick, is facing child enticement charges because investigators found records on computers and iPhones of a sexual relationship with an underaged boy, and visits to Internet porn sites using the handle "Walker04"

    It is possible that the DA is considering lowering the charges on Pierick (from, I don't know, Child Porn) in order to get Russell to spill the beans on Walker. Otherwise, the DA could make felons of both Russell and his de-facto husband.

    Lots of incentive for Russell to throw Walker under the bus.


    If you read the Child Enticement charges against Timothy Russell's domestic partner, Brian Pierick (who was also Walker's appointee to the Department of Public Instruction), you'll see that the complaint continuously references an "unnamed co-conspirator". After reading the whole charge, it becomes markedly clear that that co-conspirator is non-other-than Timothy Russell (it states as much towards the end). The interesting thing is, Timothy Russell is never charged with anything relating to this crime (although, he is charged with the embezzlement related crimes).

    Now we learn from the Rindfleisch charges that Russell was the linchpin in the black comms network, was in charge of the Walker campaign email addresses and accounting, was Walker's Deputy Chief of Staff, and Walker's appointee to the Department of Housing. It is clear that if anybody "knows where the bodies are buried", it is Russell. What are the odds that Russell had the charges of Child Enticement/Child Porn dropped in return for rolling over on Walker? Of all the charges flying around, only the sexual predator charges would stick with him forever and ever (in a sense). The other charges (embezzlement/campaigning on work time/etc) are more nuanced and aren't as likely to follow him in his personal life.

    As mentioned above, they may even have dropped potential Child Porn charges against Russell's partner, Pierick, in order to sweeten the pot.

    1. "they may even have dropped potential Child Porn charges"

      Is there any evidence for this statement?

      They might not have filed all the charges yet, but filing and then dropping hasn't been discussed anywhere.

    2. Point taken. The goal of the statement is to consider what other charges may have been considered, as the content of the criminal complaint is pretty horrific from a spectator's position. If other charges are eligible to be filed based upon what is outlined in the criminal complaint, the threat of those would seem to be very important on what information Pierick can/will provide to prosecutors concerning the other crimes that Pierick and/or Russell were involved in.

  2. Russell has two choices: Make a plea deal in which he can arrange a guaranteed result or
    roll-the-dice and hope that Walker wins the recall and a pardon or a commutation follows. The fact that he has been getting the cold-shoulder from Walker and other Republicans makes the latter option nothing more than wishful thinking.

    Good Attorneys are highly skilled at getting their clients to recognize reality. Watching a client being devoured by the legal system due to blind political loyalty is no one's idea of a good time.

  3. I'll bet Russell misjudges Walker's camp coming to his rescue with money for his lawyers...and, as a result, ends up in prison for a very, VERY long time, as you say. That's the mistake that all Walker's kool-aid drinkers will make. They are too blind to see that Scott Walker and Scott Walker supporters do not give a sh*t for Tim Russell, For Kelly Rindfleisch, for Darlene Wink, for Cullen Werwie, for...anyone other than Scott Walker.

  4. Has anybody been paying attention to Pierick's court progression? The last thing I can find on google is from 26FFEB:

    The thing is, if Russell knows the dirt, it is very likely the Pierick also knows. I mean, they were lived together, they both worked for Walker, and they apparently held the same politics (never understood the gay GOP backers...).Not to mention they had the same disgusting fetishes. If Pierick will roll on Russell, I'm willing to be that Russell will roll on Walker. The thing is, if the feds have anything on Pierick, he would be tried in a federal court, where Walker can't commute his sentence.

    1. Part of the potential damage analysis for Walker and his legal team (assuming that they think something has been done that shouldn't have been) would be trying to figure out what Russell knows, and what Pierick knows. The worst case scenario is that Russell told Pierick everything (did he let him know about a "just in case file?"). How one could rely on anything less being the case? It would then be for the lawyers and the courts to determine what would be admitted as evidence. Or for a convicted Pierick to release a statement with his side of what happened and what he knows.

      Scott Russell should think of this: Does Scott Russell think Scott Walker thinks Brain Pierick could provide information or testimony against Scott Walker?

      Because if Scott Russell believes that is a possibility, then his loyalty to Scott Walker doesn't really buy Scott Walker much. Has your back, or has a knife and is behind you.

    2. I think you mean Tim Russell. But your points stand:

      1) What does Pierick know? All the circumstantial evidence points to him having to know at least part of what Russell was up to.

      2) What are the odds of further state/federal charges coming forward against Pierick?

      3) How does #2 impact how Pierick communicates #1?

      4) We know for certain that Russell is the linchpin here. Russell could bring the whole ship down on Walker. If Russell shared his info with Pierick (which is likely based upon the complaint), it comes down to who Pierick is more loyal to; Russell, Walker, or himself.

    3. Oops. What was intended was:

      "Tim Russell should think of this: Does Tim Russell think Scott Walker thinks Brain Pierick could provide information or testimony against Scott Walker?

      Because if Tim Russell believes that is a possibility, then his loyalty to Scott Walker doesn't really buy Scott Walker much. Has your back, or has a knife and is behind you."

  5. Pierick's next court date is 20APR at 1000. It's a preliminary hearing with Judge Thomas J. Piper. Also, after checking out Pierick's record, it looks like he has a relatively clean history. I'm sure the last thing he wants is to spend some time in jail as a known child predator...

  6. FYI, Pierick is currently looking at one Class I Felony and one Class D Felony.

    Class I Felony: the penalty is a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to 3-1/2 years, or both.

    Class D Felony, the penalty is a fine of up to $100,000, or imprisonment of up to 25 years, or both.

    1. All it would take for things to get much worse is for one of the unidentified pictures to be identified as being underage, and for charges to be filed based on that. Those might be federal charges.

    2. Read the criminal complain of Pierick's. It makes it pretty clear that the photos are of at least one minor. I don't know enough about federal child predator laws, but the complaint is pretty horrific.

  7. where are the trolls on this one? it kind of says a little something that the alec trolls aren't trying to spin this one like the last article you wrote. i guess child rape is the cut off point. at least we now know they have a cut off point. disgusting.

    1. Never know if the trolls and Pierick have been riding around in vans and surfing the net together.

    2. Maybe I fit your definition of a troll, so here you go: They both crossed the line, we aren't talking about an invisible line between politics and campaigning here. Embezzlement and child enticement, put them away. It brings me hope to hear Walker distanced himself from Russel far before this investigation. As for my prediction to this investigation removing Walker from office, I say you hold your breath until we find out. Two birds with one stone. And if he defeats the recall, dont go away mad, just ............

    3. whoknewteabaggersmokehopiumApril 6, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      >>Maybe I fit your definition of a troll<<

      ZOMG! That's what it is!

      >>we aren't talking about an invisible line between politics and campaigning here.<<

      Keep smoking, it must be good.

      >>It brings me hope to hear Walker distanced himself from Russel far before this investigation. <<

      (you forgot the links to prove your point)
      Keep smoking whatever that schitt is.

      >> ahh why bother with the rest of it..

    4. @Imustbearacist
      Does it give you hope that Walker is distancing himself from Russell? Do you care at all that people appear to have been hired specifically to work on a campaign when the city of Milwaukee was broke?

    5. Oh wait, "whoknew" your quite convincing. YOU should run for governor. I have noticed that the people who do drugs tend to believe the rest of the world does them to.

      But 12:29 I appreciate the thought invoking reply. And to you, I apologize for my lack of respect to the above. This is not my blog and all I do is give my thoughts, I can respect Cappers passion, but when you are surrounded by like minds you need to be challenged on your conclusions.
      So, no, I do not condone hiring people to public office to campaign only. But dont kid yourself every politician brings the people who helped them onto their staff. I am sure if there was a dime of public money that was misspent john Doe will tell us. Most likely 3 days before the election. Everyone will be charged in hopes of swaying a few votes. But say he is guilty, I will still vote for him to force another election where a conservative can run against whoever the union money can muster. I would lose faith in him but not his ideals.

    6. Thanks, I didn't expect you to reply. I don't know if they will tell us before the election, remember they didn't tell us that the John Doe had started before the "original" Novermber 2010 election. You are probably right about bringing the staff along, although it seems to me that this particular group went above and beyond with cynicism and with tricking both sides, but that is just how it appears to me. I see that for you Walker represents conservative ideals, I think he tricked you, but we will see. I don't believe in voting for someone who you don't agree with just because it will somehow affect another election. (I didn't vote for Santorum, I thought it would be wrong to do so.) I also don't see politics as unions vs. conservatives. Probably more corruption vs. the people or something.

    7. @Imustbearacist Walker didn't distance himself from Russell at all. In fact, he put Russell in charge of his internal campaign, including the fund from which Russell embezzled and his campaign website, not to mention that Harley ride.

      And am I reading that right? You would vote for Walker just because he would go after a group of people you don't like, even if Walker is a criminal? Nice to see you're taking the right's righteous road. Hate and greed over integrity and honesty is Walker's motto, and apparently yours as well.

    8. LOL, and the master of spin chimes in! I read in your writings that Russells office was moved, and that the girls were gossiping that he was on the outs. Besides, Walker asked for the investigation on Russell, not exactly a friendship move.
      If Walker is guilty, I am voting for the ability of the Republican party to run a new candidate. And, its not about the people, its about keeping this state one of the best to live in, raise a family in, and maybe even keep a retiree or two here.
      Every day I wonder if your going to portray Walker as the most foolish governor in the country, or try to describe some ingenious crime ring that he has schemed up. Its like my dessert to reading the news! Oh, and I have lots of union friends, we disagree, but we dont hate each other.

  8. If a Republican political operative had a compulsion to collect child pornography they would probably be careful to obtain it from someone they trusted, like other Republicans.

    During the Iran-Contra scandal it was revealed that one funraising gambit was a brothel featuring underage boys for the service of wealthy Republican donors. The story was so unsavory that the press, with the amazing exception of the Washington Times, couldn't bring itself to aggressively report it. The Republican fundraiser who ran the brothel conveniently died not long after the criminality came to light.

    There is a network of these people out there. This is why I believe that the child porn investigation may end up being the most explosive feature of Walkergate. But it will be the Feds handling the perp walk.

    1. I doubt there are any non-Republican child porn aficionados.

    2. @Gareth, how did the child porn fundraiser die?

    3. Not vouching for any of this, start with the names here.

  9. Capper-
    Wasn't Kathy Nickolaus also involved in the caucus scandal, didn't she get immunity? (Maybe I am wrong about that, that is why I am asking here)If she were involved in that scandal, did she know Kelly R or any of these other characters? Ignore that question if she wasn't granted immunity in the earlier caucus scandal?

    1. I really couldn't tell you off hand. Sorry.

  10. Ok, she was granted immunity, just google it. Does anyone know if she knew Kelly R, weren't they there at the same time?
    Just curious.

  11. Excellent post, excellent thread. I wonder if Russell isn't concerned about the loyalties of his attorney's to him. Lots of ways to launder money to an attorney, who poses to Russell, as his representation. In reality this attorney's objective is to help Walker. His goal is to completely violate his code of ethics and destroy Tim's credibility, as a witness against Walker and many others.

    Tim's "closest allies," in this are probably Chisholm and his attorneys. They want him as a credible, believable witness. IMHO, that's his best long term escape route. Think John Dean against Nixon. Walker and his attorneys are anxious to tear down Tim's credibility and smear him to the best of their ability.