It is being reported that Tim Russell's plea deal was accepted by Judge David Hansher does not contain any agreements that Russell cooperate in any other cases except his own. Landgraf will ask for no more than 30 months prison (almost three years) and 30 months' extended supervision -- but here's the kicker and potentially the sweetest part of the deal from Timmy's point of view: there will be no more charges against Russell that related to any misconduct in public office charges.
Prosecution also requested that he pay restitution of $28,000. Sentencing is set for Jan. 22, 2013, and Russell remains free on bail until that date. Milwaukee County Judge David Hansher is not required to use this agreement in his sentencing and ordered a pre-sentencing report for what he called "unanswered" questions.
We know that, despite Gov. Scott Walker's "hopes", the John Doe probe is not done -- retired Waukesha County Judge Neal Nettesheim, who has heard every aspect of the case in a secret "John Doe" process outlined in Wisconsin's founding documents has publicly stated: "The John Doe is not completed. It is still open."
Tim Russell is tied to every other Walkergate crime as a co-conspirator or as an unnamed co-conspirator. The fact that he has struck a deal and pleaded guilty without any written statement of cooperation appears disturbing -- for what reason was the State of Wisconsin willing to let Russell skate on other crimes that there was enough evidence to indict for?
Casual observers should be cautious -- there is a good reason to not write agreements to testify into plea bargains -- compelled testimony will be construed by defendants for which legally compelled testimony is used against as evidence that testimony is contaminated and even misleading, because the party giving that testimony has a vested interest in protecting themselves by testifying against others.
This may be why there is nothing in the written agreement that specifically mentions Russell turning state witness. Even if Russell did provide valuable information to the John Doe probe, acknowledging this in a plea agreement would be construed by Walker's legal team as "proof" the information is invalid -- these are the types of details that can get big cases thrown out on appeal.
But casual observers also know that Kelly Rindfleisch was given a plea despite the fact she did not cooperate in the least.
There could be other reasons that the DA agreed to a plea after telling Russell that all deals were "off the table" -- Russell may have just refused to cooperate, just like Kelly Rindfleisch has refused to cooperate. This was brought forward in Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf's sentencing recommendations and an in-court presentation that included THIS 78-slide powerpoint naming names and, for the first time publicly, began the process of connecting the information the ongoing John Doe probe has uncovered.
The prosecutor states, in Rindfleisch's case, that "provided no information deemed useful by prosecutors".
Did the prosecutors give up on getting useful information from Russell and decided to settle this case to move on to the next round? We will probably learn more at Tim Russell's sentencing hearing.
Did the prosecution decide they had all the evidence they needed from emails, computer forensics, and other testimony, including the 13 people granted immunity?
Perhaps Russell is really just "small fry" here and the bigger fish will be indicted later with or without Russell's cooperation -- it could be that the DA's office has no reason to let the media make this all about Russell instead of the people higher-up.
We don't have a crystal ball and the only folks that know what has happened are not talking publically. Thirty months in prison is not a short-time, so it does appear the DA's office does want to send a message to others that Russell's crimes are significant, but Russell could have gotten a sentence of 10 years for this one felony.
This writer's opinion is this: Russell is probably as "loyal" and uncooperative as Kelly Rindfleisch -- his lawyerpalooza demonstrated this and did antagonize the judge that clearly has had enough of this. We know the John Doe probe, despite what Gannett, Journal Communcation, and Lee Enterprise wants us to believe, is an ongoing probe -- it is reasonable to assume there will be more indictments.
No prosecutor wants to put an uncooperative witness on the stand -- the Milwaukee County DA's office is not dumb -- getting Tim Russell involved on the state's side would be risky at best and likely result in any number of problems that may open cracks to appeal. Prosecutors probably decided that, just like Rindfleisch, it is not worth throwing the book at Russell -- he has no information and could not be trusted as a witness anyhow.
They have thousands of emails and 13 people that only escaped indictments because of immunity -- this means they cannot plead the 5th amendment any more and any obstruction on their part at this point is a crime for which they don't have immunity. Russell is not going to be a "star" witness against Walker, but this isn't going to matter anyhow.
It would be reasonable to assume that Russell accepted almost three years in the pen because Russell had no reason to believe he would beat the charges filed against him. In-the-end, it may be entirely appropriate that Russell is now a convicted felon on the most serious charge facing him -- stealing 50 cents on each dollar donated to widows and orphans of soldiers killed while serving in our military. If prosecutors are done with him, it is because he would only contaminate the ongoing investigation and future trials.
Since Russell is an unnamed co-conspirator in his former partner Brian Pierick's sex crimes against a teenage boy -- offenses he committed after Scott Walker got him a job at Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction working with homeless children, Russell appears to be getting a sweet deal. However, note that the agreement specifically says no more charges will be filed against Russell, including any "misconduct in public office charges." Maybe they will still come after him for the child pornography and enticement, but this writer would not bet on it.
Russell could have faced up to 14 1/2 years and nine months behind bars and $45,000 in fines if convicted on all three felony charges. Is Timmy just going to quietly sit out the next 2 1/2 years, falling on his secret router to protect his former boss Scott Walker?
Will the judge, after getting his "unanswered questions" resolved, throw the book at Russell even though the prosecutor is only recommending 1/4 of the time Russell could serve?
Time will tell, but if the decision seems too easy on Russell or if you hear Walker fans fanboys proclaiming there's nothin' to see here, just remind them what the John Doe probe judge has publicly said -- it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.
Thirteen folks that potentially faced serious charges for the criminality behind Scott Walker's ascent to power have immunity, but only if they cooperate. The prosecution does not need Russell and he is probably a liability to their work now.