Chisholm invokes his illegal John Doe probe in re-election campaign

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog


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CAMPAIGNING ON DOE: Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, the Democrat who launched the unconstitutional John Doe investigation into conservatives, is running for re-election – in part on his John Doe record.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, the Democrat who brought Wisconsin the infamous John Doe investigations, is campaigning on the unconstitutional probe.

And he’s taking a shot at the John Doe judge and members of the state Supreme Court that shut down the Chisholm-launched witch hunt into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and dozens of conservative organizations.

“The partisan forces who shut down the John Doe investigation are already out in force trying to stop our progress and defeat me in a low-turnout election,” the district attorney declares in a campaign email announcing his re-election.

Who are those “partisan forces?” They can’t be the targets of his illegal probe. Had they had any power they would have long ago shut down the secret dragnet they say was used to harass and intimidate because of their political viewpoints.

The people who ended the investigation are Judge Gregory Peterson – who ruled in January 2014 that Chisholm, his assistants and the state Government Accountability Board’s hand-picked special prosecutor had presented no probable cause that campaign finance crimes had occurred – and the Wisconsin Supreme Court that declared the broad investigation unconstitutional and ordered it shut down.

Chisholm has made clear his intentions to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state high court’s ruling, rendered by its conservative majority. His argument is that some of the conservative justices should have recused themselves because right-of-center issue advocacy groups ran campaign ads attacking the justice’s opponents in previous elections.

The prosecutor’s looming petition has very little chance of being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which takes up about 1 percent of petitions each year.

Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson, one of Chisholm’s Democratic partners in the multi-county probe, ran on his John Doe record and lost in his bid to become a circuit court judge.

Chisholm appears to stand in defiance of the role of the prosecutor, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s proclamation in Berger v. United States.

“The (prosecutor) is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligations to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.

“He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor – indeed, he should do so. But, while, he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”

Chisholm’s investigation included armed, predawn raids on the homes of targets, who were detained while law enforcement agents rooted through their personal possessions.

A 16-year-old boy, the son of one of the targets, was home alone at the time of one of the raids. Law enforcement told him he could tell no one about what happened at his home, that he couldn’t even contact his parents or an attorney. The subjects of the John Doe, including witnesses, could say nothing publicly about the secret investigation on the threat of being thrown in jail.

These are the tactics John Chisholm and his assistants used in the politically charged investigation the prosecutor now invokes with pride in his campaign for re-election.

Chisholm faces a challenge by Milwaukee attorney Verona Swanigan, backed by some key Milwaukee conservatives as well as many in Milwaukee’s African-American community. Swanigan is black.

The incumbent, expressing concern about the challenge he faces, is asking his supporters to help by collecting signatures to get on to the Aug. 9 primary ballot, “where this election will likely be decided.”

His campaign appeal is titled, Working Together. Making Milwaukee Safer.

Chisholm insists that during his decade tenure as DA, he has “worked tirelessly to improve our criminal justice system and keep our community safer.”

Milwaukee recorded 145 homicides last year, the highest number since 1993, when 160 people were killed, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

And 2016 is off to a very violent start.

“The dedicated public servants I lead in the District Attorney’s Office share my passion to care for victims and hold offenders accountable,” Chisholm states in his campaign appeal. “I believe in working directly with the citizens of Milwaukee in their neighborhoods to improve the conditions that foster crime.”

The vast majority of homicide victims were black males.

“I believe every family deserves safe neighborhoods, a fair criminal justice system, and an accountable government. As District Attorney, I work tirelessly to address the underlying causes of crime,” the DA said.

A coalition of Milwaukee County citizens, many of them black, late last year asked Gov. Scott Walker to approve an investigation into Chisholm’s conduct. Walker’s office declined to do so.

“We work daily to fight systemic inequalities and racial disparity, all while keeping violent offenders off the streets,” Chisholm said.

One of the targets of the John Doe investigation, Walker’s former aide Cindy Archer, is suing Chisholm and his assistants on allegations the prosecutors violated her constitutional rights.

In his campaign announcement, Chisholm said he is “equally committed to ensuring government accountability, and vigorously prosecute officials who abuse the public trust.”

His office has been accused of pursuing lengthy and expensive investigations into the Milwaukee political machine’s enemies, and looking the other way at those in the liberal fold alleged to have broken the law.

“I am surprised that John Chisholm proudly embraces an investigation, that has been held unconstitutional in its entirety by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the subpoenas aspects of which have been previously held unconstitutional by Judge Peterson,” said David Rivkin Jr., lead attorney in the Cindy Archer civil rights case.

“Meanwhile, the so-called ‘partisan forces’ that John Chisholm says shut down the ‘John Doe’ are the citizens who the Wisconsin Supreme Court celebrated for having the courage to stand up to Chisholm and his ‘unjust’ and ‘tyrannical retribution’ against political opponents. If he had any decency, John Chisholm would be resigning, not running for reelection,” Rivkin added.