Under fire, John Doe prosecutors now seek secrecy

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog


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WAITING GAME: Targets of Wisconsin’s unconstitutional John Doe investigation say it is urgent the Wisconsin Supreme Court act .

MADISON, Wis. – A conservative target of Wisconsin’s politically driven “John Doe II” investigation is asking the state Supreme Court to make public a motion that addresses an urgent matter of “great public interest”: the conduct of the prosecutors who carried out the abusive probe.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his assistants on Thursday asked the court to file under seal a motion by Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth seeking post-judgment relief.

The prosecutors have been accused by the people they targeted of leaking sealed investigation documents to the press.

On Friday, O’Keefe, one of scores of conservatives caught up in the secret John Doe web, played along and asked the court to temporarily seal its motion so the Democrat-led district attorney’s office can quickly explain why keeping it from the public is so important.

“There is no rational basis for keeping the public from viewing the instant motion,” wrote O’Keefe’s attorneys in the court filing. “What should not be allowed is the continued disclosure of information from unlawfully seized private communications of citizens.”

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the prosecutors’ last gasp effort to keep their unconstitutional campaign finance investigation alive. The high court rejected a petition by Chisholm and two other district attorneys, also Democrats, to toss out last year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that found the dragnet unconstitutional and declared it dead.

In that ruling, the state Supreme Court ordered the prosecutors to promptly return the millions of professional and personal communications and possessions they seized in the probe – through predawn raids and a vast electronic spying operation.

That order was held up when Chisholm and his partners pursued a petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now that Chisholm’s petition has been rejected by the high court, much of the original state Supreme Court order is back in play.

Other conservative targets have asked the court to appoint a “master” in charge of the disposition of property and that the prosecutors be forced to relinquish control of the possessions they illegally seized. More so, the conservatives are asking for a criminal investigation into the leak of 1,350 court-sealed John Doe documents recently published in the liberal British newspaper The Guardian.

Several targets have said the documents were cherry-picked and conflated to make it appear as if the conservatives were engaged in some criminal scheme. They also say there is compelling evidence to suggest the prosecutors and investigators – or at least individuals close to them – leaked the sealed records in contempt of a court order.

O’Keefe and his limited-government advocacy organization were at the center of the mainstream media stories depicting the Wisconsin Club for Growth as running an illegal coordination scheme with the campaign of Republican Gov. Scott Walker during Wisconsin’s bitter political recall years.

O’Keefe has often served as the front man in fighting back against the investigators and their widely rejected theory on coordination. He has sued the prosecutors and their legal advisers, the former state Government Accountability Board, on allegations they overstepped their authority and trampled on citizens’ First and Fourth amendment rights.

In Friday’s court filing, O’Keefe’s attorneys agree that the state Supreme Court in March 2015 determined that “the secrecy order issued by the John Doe judge should be respected and that all documents and information covered by that secrecy order must remain sealed in the court.”

Since then, the state Legislature passed a measure, signed into law by Walker, that removes the authority of John Dole judges to bind those targeted in the probes to such secrecy orders. While John Doe judges may require secrecy of themselves, prosecutors, law enforcement personnel and court officials, no secrecy order may apply to anyone other than those specified in the law.

Besides, O’Keefe’s motion does not contain “information protected” by the original secrecy order, the filing insists.

“Beyond this, the motion had already been redacted to protect sensitive information that, in its own right should remain secret,” the filing states. “This includes the names of subjects who were targets of the investigation, as well as specific Gmail addresses of members of the prosecutor team.”

The state Supreme Court, nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, has said nothing publicly of what it intends to do now that the John Doe truly is over.

And Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel will not say whether he has launched or will launch a criminal investigation into the recent leaks.