John Doe investigation plods along, slowly

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MILWAUKEE — When a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker is sentenced next week, the hearing will bring to a close the second of six cases that grew out of a long-running investigation into Walker's office when he was Milwaukee County executive.

Details of the entire probe are secret, so everyone from investigators to those being investigated are prohibited from discussing details. So it's not clear how close the John Doe investigation is to wrapping up.

But there have been few indications that additional suspects will be named, at least according to sparse online court records.

A total of 13 people have asked for and received immunity in exchange for their testimony, but the last time that happened was nearly six months ago.

Bruce Landgraf, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney leading the investigation, said he couldn't comment on whether any more charges or suspects would be named.

So far, six people have been charged, of whom four have been convicted and one sentenced. The other two head to trial in coming months.

Walker has continually said he's not a target of the investigation, and has not been charged. He voluntarily agreed to meet with prosecutors in April.

One of his former top aides, Kelly Rindfleisch, pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of misconduct in office, stemming from allegations that she did campaign work on the taxpayers' time. Three similar counts were dismissed.

Rindfleisch, Walker's deputy chief of staff in 2010 in the county executive's office, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday. Landgraf has promised to recommend jail time and probation rather than prison.
The only person to be sentenced thus far was railroad executive William Gardner. He was sentenced to two years' probation in July after being found guilty of exceeding state campaign donation limits and laundering campaign donations to Walker and other Wisconsin politicians.

Walker's campaign returned the $43,800 in donations Gardner had given him.

Another Walker aide, Darlene J. Wink, pleaded guilty this summer to two misdemeanor charges of working on Walker's gubernatorial campaign on county time. She was scheduled to be sentenced next Wednesday, but Landgraf said he'll ask for the hearing to be postponed a third time so he could extract her continued cooperation on the prosecution of Timothy Russell, another Walker associate.
Russell, Walker's former deputy chief of staff, is charged with stealing more than $21,000 from a nonprofit Walker asked him to lead. His jury trial is set to begin Dec. 3.

Four days after that, Kevin D. Kavanaugh is scheduled to be sentenced. Kavanaugh, whom Walker had named to the county Veterans Service Commission, was found guilty last month of stealing more than $51,000 that had been donated to help veterans and their families.

The sixth person charged as a result of the probe is Brian Pierick, Russell's domestic partner. He is accused of child enticement, evidence of which was allegedly discovered during the investigation of one of the others.

Pierick's jury trial is scheduled to start Jan. 29.

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