Tim Russell, a former aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker when Walker was the Milwaukee County Executive, pleaded guilty today to one charge of embezzlement for stealing money meant for a veterans' charity that Walker had assigned Russell to oversee.
Russell is the fifth Scott Walker associate to be convicted of wrongdoing discovered during a John Doe investigation that began in 2010. Russell was originally charged nearly a year ago with two felonies and one misdemeanor count of embezzling funds from the veterans' group and from two political campaigns. Two of those charges were dropped as part of today's deal. The District Attorney's office also agreed not to charge Russell with misconduct in office in connection with a secret email system Russell helped set up in Walker's County Executive offices. That system was used by Walker aides Kelly Rindfleisch and Darlene Wink (and perhaps other county employees) to do campaign work on county time.
Rindfleisch was sentenced last week after pleading guilty to one felony count of misconduct in office. Wink has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and will be sentenced in January. Kevin Kavanaugh, whom Walker had appointed to a county veterans services board, was convicted by a jury in October of stealing money meant for families of veterans. Railroad executive William Gardner was convicted of laundering campaign donations made to Walker and other Republicans.
Russell's domestic partner, Brian Peirick, is scheduled to go to trial in January for child enticement. Those alleged activities were also discovered during the John Doe probe.
Earlier this week, after it was revealed that Russell would plead guilty, Scott Walker insisted that he, Walker, was not under investigation and that he was hopeful the open-ended investigation would now be wrapped up. The judge overseeing the investigation, however, told the Associated Press shortly after Walker's comments were made public that the investigation is still open.
It is anybody's guess where the investigation goes from here. Over a dozen additional Walker associates have been granted immunity in exchange for testifying in front of the grand jury. At least two of Governor Walker's current state government appointees have been linked to the investigation but have not been charged.
Even if he is never charged with criminal activity himself, one has to ask how Walker could possibly surround himself with this gang of thugs and hacks and not know what they were up to.
Russell faces up to 10 years in prison, but the prosecutor has agreed to ask for 30 months.
More details at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
UPDATE: Here's a little video of today's Sing Along in the Capitol.