John Doe special prosecutor obeys judge’s order

Part 77 of 77 in the series Wisconsin’s Secret War

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – The special prosecutor in a politically charged John Doe probe has heeded a federal judge’s order demanding that all targets receive notice of a preliminary injunction shutting down the nearly three-year investigation into dozens of conservative groups.

“Pursuant to this Court’s Decision and Order, dated May 30, 2014, Defendant (Francis) Schmitz, by his undersigned attorneys, ‘provide[d] all targets and subpoenaed parties with a copy of the Court’s injunction’ by the United States Postal Service,” Schmitz’s attorney, Joseph M. Russell, wrote in a notice of compliance filed Thursday in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

COMPLIANCE: John Doe special prosecutor Francis Schmitz has complied with a federal judge’s order involving a court-issued preliminary injunction, according to a court document filed Thursday in federal court.

Last week, federal Judge Rudolph Randa ordered Schmitz to do what the special prosecutor had failed to do.

In that decision, Randa noted that conservative activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for growth, plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit against Schmitz and Milwaukee County prosecutors, had previously advised Schmitz to provide copies of the injunction so that the parties would understand those rights.

On May 6, Randa issued the preliminary injunction halting the John Doe and barring Schmitz and his fellow prosecutors-turned defendants from “obtaining compliance with any order, subpoena, or other process issued in furtherance of the investigation.”

Schmitz and his co-defendants, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, two of his assistant DAs, and Dean Nickel, a shadowy contracted employee for the state Government Accountability Board, have appealed Randa’s ruling to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

O’Keefe and the club, among dozens of conservatives targeted in the five-county investigation, claim the prosecutors violated their First Amendment rights in a probe that featured what some sources have described as pre-dawn, “paramilitary-style” raids on homes and offices.

The federal judge’s ruling, still in effect, did not stop Schmitz from “negotiating” with Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign lawyer to settle the investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal. John Doe prosecutors have operated the court-administered dragnet on the theory that conservative groups may have illegally coordinated with Walker’s campaign during the state’s partisan recall elections.

After the Wall Street Journal story broke, Schmitz stepped back and asked Randa for clarification on the judge’s ruling. In essence, the special prosecutor begged for forgiveness after failing to seek permission.

Randa, in his sternly worded order last Friday, told Schmitz that the preliminary injunction should be clear to the prosecutors.

“The order of this Court and that of the Seventh Circuit offers clear guidance as to the parameters of the injunction,” the judge wrote. “In the absence of any further information regarding the content and import of ‘discussions’ that may violate the Court’s clear directives, it is impossible for the Court to offer further clarification at this time.”

If Schmitz has violated the terms of the judge’s order, he could be held in contempt of court.

The 29 conservative organizations targeted in the investigation, launched in late summer 2012, know all too well the threat of contempt.

They have all been under a secrecy order issued by the probe’s former presiding judge. Most have feared the repercussions, including jail time, for speaking out against what they assert is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt, initiated by Chisholm, a Democrat.

Schmitz has repeatedly declined to comment on anything involving the John Doe probe.

Contact M.D. Kittle at