Monday, October 1, 2012

Walkergate: Walker Needs A Witness Protection Plan

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today on the DA's witness list for the criminal trial for Tim Russell, the long time aide, campaign staffer and special friend to Scott Walker. And, my friends, if you thought the witness list for Kelly Rindfleisch was titillating, Russell's list is down right exciting!

Taking top billing again is none other than Walker.

Walker testifying in Russell's trial is much more interesting than when he takes the stand in a couple of weeks in Rindfleisch's trial.

In Rindfleisch's trial, the questioning will probably be limited to things like whether Walker knew was she was doing and if he had told her to do it. Odds are Walker would either perjure himself again or plead the fifth.

Although things could get real interesting if they go into Walker's signature being on Rindfleisch's hiring and promotional papers. Or what job she was actually hired for.

But Walker's relationship with Rindfleisch is much different than the one he has with Russell.

The newspaper article barely skims the relationship between Walker and Russell:
Russell worked as Walker's deputy chief of staff and housing director; Rindfleisch succeeded Russell as deputy chief of staff.
The fact is that Walker and Russell have been friends for decades. Furthermore, Russell worked on every one of Walker's campaigns, sometimes even taking a leave from his county jobs to do so.

Between campaigns, Walker made sure he took care of his special and loyal friend by getting him a comfy county job. Before the deputy chief of staff and housing director gigs, Russell served a number of positions. Four years ago, when I wrote at the great site folkbums, I cited this blurb, which is now so laden with irony it's not funny:
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker today said he hired his campaign manager to a county job as an assistant in Walker's office.

Tim Russell, a real estate agent who most recently served as Walker's campaign manager for his spring re-election, will be paid $75,982 a year. Russell is temporarily filling the vacant post of community liaison, but will likely shift to another job in his office soon, Walker said.

"Where he's at right now is just a place-holder" position, he said. Walker said he expects to use Russell to help with developing his 2009 county budget. Walker said he wanted to tap Russell's expertise and said he would maintain a clear separation between county and campaign duties.

It's Russell's third stint with the county. He formerly worked as operations director for Walker and as county economic development director.
For what it's worth, Russell was never confirmed as the economic development director, since the Milwaukee County Board could see right through Russell's incompetence and the political patronage.

So, yeah, they've been rather close for a long while.

But their long term relationship isn't the only thing that will make Walker's testimony so damn interesting. Oh, yes, as the gentle reader already knows, when it comes to all things Walker, there is more. There is always more.

There is more because there is this:

I don't know about you, but I'd pack a lunch to see Walker explain that email. Just the thought of it must be causing Walker to lose hair at ten times his already accelerated rate.

Walker is going to have to state on where that email came from, why it wasn't done on the county email system, why he didn't do anything about it before Darlene Wink got busted for her illegal politicking if he thought it was so wrong. Hell, if the prosecutors play it right, Walker might confess on the stand as if they were in an old Perry Mason episode.

But the rest of the list is also very intriguing, including Kelly Rindfleisch as well:
Other prosecution witnesses listed for Russell's trial include Rindfleisch, Darlene Wink and James Tietjen. All three former county employees were listed by Russell as officers of the Heritage Guard Preservation Society, a nonprofit used for deposits of donations raised for the annual Operation Freedom veterans picnic that Walker hosted as county executive.
Uh oh, now Walker is going to have to be very careful to keep his stories straight so that he doesn't contradict himself from one trial to the other.

And don't forget that Wink is also supposed to be testifying about the destruction of digital evidence. That was one of the things specifically mentioned in her plea deal.

Two other names appear in the article as well.

One is Mark Block, who at the time was the cigarette smoking campaign manager for Herman Cain's failed presidential campaign. Russell is alleged to have used some of his purloined cash to fly down to Atlanta to apply for a position in that doomed campaign.

The other name is Milwaukee County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo. Sanfelippo is another one of the foaming at the mouth teahadists that supposedly wants smaller government, but he is not above voting to give his cab company big raises in its contract with the county. Sanfelippo is also reported to have spent a lot of time politicking with Rindfleisch. It wouldn't be a big jump of faith to think that he might have done the same with Russell.

It looks like the tail end of this year is going to be as exciting as the beginning was, when the arrests were first made and the charges freshly issued.

Oh, and Mr. Russell, if you're reading this, I told you that you should've taken that plea deal like I said. Now they're going to have to take Walker down the only every so slightly more difficult way.


  1. Is there a link for the actual D.A. witness lists for both the Russell and Rindfleisch trials?

    Same question for the defense lists.

    Thanks for all the good posts on these topics.

    1. Sadly no, else I would have included it.

    2. Maybe someone can help the intrepid blogger with the details where and how to obtain this information. You might have some readers willing to contribute the minor costs of acquiring the complete lists.

      Readers might like to have the thoughts of capper (and the comments of others) on the rest of the names, rather than waiting for the Urinal Sentinel and other guardians of the public discourse to reveal what they already know.

    3. Meh. It's not the cost, just the time in trying to get the list. Besides, most of the list is probably IT and HR staff to verify the procedures in procuring the evidence.

  2. In both cases, Walker will likely be asked, "Did you know your employee was doing XYZ illegal task?" I think in both cases, Walker will answer in the affirmative, but with the stipulation that, "I didn't know that their activities were illegal...". An example would be saying that he knew Rindfleisch was working on his campaign, but thought it was only after hours and that Russell's embezzlement was going towards wounded veterans, not Caribbean vacations. If the DA then asks Walker, "So, you didn't know Russell was meeting with Herman Cain's team?" He can say, "I did, but I understood it was using his own money." Now, if they have evidence to the contrary, his answer will be the easy, "I don't recall that being the case, but if the evidence says it's so, then it must be...I was very busy..."

    This line of defense (the "I knew but I didn't know and don't recall now") keeps him from looking like a busy boss who just trusted his employees too much. It also keeps him from pleading the fifth or having to outright lie (I guess it's the Alberto Gonzalez defense). This especially works with the layer of separation between Rindfleisch and Russell.

    The only way for the DA to fight this is if there is A) somebody willing to testify counter to these claims or B) copious amounts of data to the contrary. Walker, Russell, and Rindfleisch will say that Wink was just a low level staffer and didn't know how things really worked. So, A will be called into question there. B is up for debate, as we don't know what they have at this point. We know there are enough emails (that we've seen) that would convince 11/12ths of the jury that the thing was an organized cabal (from Walker allowing Russell to use the vet's fund for campaigning to Rindfleisch doing campaigning on county time). But, unless there is an email saying, "Boss, I'm going to use this vets fund to hang with Cain, is that cool?" with Walker responding, "Yeah, hang loose...", there is that small window of plausibility.

    I guess the most interesting thing, is that the Russell and Rindfleisch cases are so unrelated, yet so interwoven. Walker doesn't need to talk about Russell campaigning on work time or about Rindfleisch using charity funds for the election. That keeps the three parties from having to form a circular firing squad. Why would the DA set it up this way? Wouldn't you want the entire tribe brought up on the same charges (as they could be) in order for them to have to testify against each other? I'm holding out belief that the DA is keeping the illegal campaign charges off of Russell in order to hold them over his head. But we'll see. Mark my words though, Walker will say he knew Rindfleisch was doing campaign work, but he thought it was on her off hours and told her strait up, "Don't campaign at work!".

    So, with all that, here is the updated schedule:

    Kelly Rindfleisch
    10-11-2012 - Hearing
    10-15-2012 - Jury Trial
    Judge: Hansher, David A.

    Kevin Kavanaugh
    10-08-2012 - Jury Trial
    Judge: Guolee, Michael D.

    Brian Pierick
    01-24-2013 - Jury Status Hearing
    01-29-2013 - Jury Trial
    Judge: Haughney, Patrick C.

    Darlene Wink
    11-21-2012 - Sentencing
    Judge: Konkol, Daniel L.

    Tim Russell
    10-22-2012 - Final Pre-Trial
    11-02-2012 - Motion Hearing
    12-03-2012 - Jury Trial
    Judge: Hansher, David A.

    Interesting that Wink will not have to testify against Russell (or anybody else at this point) as her deal says she's free after sentencing. As her deal also mentions the "Dumpster o' Fun" and the destruction of digital evidence, kind of makes you wonder when she's planning to testify about those things?

  3. Keep in mind that prosecuting lawyers rarely ask questions they already know the answers to...and that, my friends, will be Walker's downfall.

    1. I always thought it was "prosecuting lawyers rarely ask questions they DO NOT already know the answers to"

  4. They are keeping them separate to make it harder for them to keep their stories straight and to make it easier to catch them in a lie.

    Also, Walker can't claim that. That's what I pointed out with his email.

    Also, Wink is indeed listed to testify against Russell.