John T. Chisholm

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John T. Chisholm
BornMarch 14, 1963
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationDistrict Attorney for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
PredecessorE. Michael McCann
Political party
Democratic
Spouse(s)Colleen Chisholm
 
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John T. Chisholm
BornMarch 14, 1963
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationDistrict Attorney for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
PredecessorE. Michael McCann
Political party
Democratic
Spouse(s)Colleen Chisholm

John T. Chisholm (born March 14, 1963) is an American prosecutor and the district attorney of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, serving since 2007. Prior to his election as district attorney, Chisholm was an assistant district attorney in the office, supervising its gun-crime unit.

Biography[edit]

Chisholm was raised in Menomonee Falls and Elm Grove, both located in Waukesha County. He graduated from Marquette University High School in 1981 and attended St. John's University and Marquette University, graduating from the latter in 1985.[citation needed]

Between 1985 and 1988, Chisholm served in the U.S. Army, and was stationed in the Korean demilitarized zone, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. In 1994, Chisholm graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School with a juris doctor. The same year, he was hired as an assistant district attorney by E. Michael McCann, the previous district attorney of Milwaukee County. In 1999, Chisholm was made supervisor of the office's gun-crime unit.[1]

In 2005, Chisholm announced his candidacy for district attorney; McCann had announced his intention to retire at the end of his term. Defeating former Milwaukee alderwoman Larraine McNamara-McGraw in the Democratic primary, Chisholm was elected over independent Lew Wasserman in the general election.[citation needed]

Tenure as district attorney[edit]

As district attorney, Chisholm established a public integrity unit, resulting in the prosecution of Milwaukee alderman Michael McGee, Jr., who was later convicted in U.S. District Court of crimes including bribery and extortion. McGee was also convicted of two state crimes, to which he pled nolo contendere.[2] Chisholm's office has prosecuted other officials, including Milwaukee County supervisor Toni Clark,[3] who pled guilty when charged with filing a false campaign finance report. Supervisor Johnny Thomas was prosecuted in 2012 for bribery, but was acquitted at trial.[4]

Chisholm investigated and prosecuted violent offenders, including preacher and Milwaukee crime figure Michael Lock, who was later featured in the American Greed program on CNBC. He prosecuted Walter E. Ellis, a serial killer who targeted prostitutes in Milwaukee over a twenty-year period.[citation needed]

Scott Walker investigation and controversy[edit]

Between 2010 and 2013, Chisholm's office investigated staff and campaign supporters of Scott Walker, then the Milwaukee County executive, through the state's "John Doe investigation" process, which is unique to Wisconsin.[5] The investigation resulted in four felony convictions, including those of Timothy Russell and Kelly Rindfleisch, who had both served as deputy chiefs of staff for Walker.[6] Rindfleisch pleaded guilty in 2012 to one felony count of misconduct in office for raising money on county time for Brett Davis' failed bid for lieutenant governor. She was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation. She is now appealing the conviction, arguing prosecutors violated her constitutional rights with their overly broad search warrants.[7][8] Timothy Russell was convicted of stealing more than $21,000 from a veterans organization, Operation Freedom, which Walker had named him to lead, and sentenced to 2 years in prison.[9][10]

The case purportedly began in 2009 when then-Milwaukee County Executive Walker’s staff uncovered that $11,242.24 had apparently been embezzled from a county charity. Walker's staff asked the district attorney for a criminal investigation. Even after the thief's conviction, Chisholm focused his investigation on Walker’s personal staff, who did not learn of the secret investigation for more than a year, when Walker was campaigning for his first term as governor in 2010. His then-chief of staff, the late Tom Nardelli, learned that Chisholm's staff had won a court order in May 2010 to start a “John Doe probe" into the "origin” of the $11,242.24, which had been stolen and the embezzler convicted.[11]

The investigation received criticism from many Republicans and conservatives as well as certain pundits and journalists, many claiming it was a partisan undertaking against supporters and fundraisers for Walker, the state's governor since 2011.[1] It was reported in The Daily Mail ("Report: Wife's weeping over anti-union law drove Democratic DA to target Republican governor's staff and conservative activists with five-year investigation") that Chisholm had pursued Walker's staff and almost thirty conservative nonprofit groups. The paper reported that

"Chisholm told a fellow prosecutor that he was motivated by weeping complaints from his wife [Colleen], a schoolteacher and labor shop steward whose union stood to lose if Walker's policies prevailed ... [L]eaders of virtually every conservative political nonprofit in the Badger State ... found themselves swept up in Chisholm's criminal probe as they were hit with pre-dawn raids that seized their computers, cell phones, email records – and even a child's iPad ... Armed police kept many of them from contacting their lawyers or corralling their children in some cases while they executed searches initiated by Chisholm over a period of a year and a half" under Wisconsin's "John Doe" investigations, which are unique to Wisconsin, under which Chisholm was allowed to enforce a gag order demanding complete secrecy from his targets and potential witnesses, prohibiting them from discussing the case, defending themselves in public or firing back when damaging documents were leaked to the press."[12]

One of Chisholm's targets, a high ranking Wisconsin Republican activist, Eric O'Keefe, defied the gag order inherent in "John Doe" investigations, made public what had occurred, and instituted a lawsuit, which was upheld by federal judge Rudolph Randa, but stayed by an appeals panel one day later. On October 14, 2014, Judge Randa issued a preliminary injunction, telling Chisholm and the state Government Accountability Board they could not enforce a controversial section of Wisconsin campaign finance law, which he ruled impeded the First Amendment rights of conservatives associated with the the Milwaukee-based Citizens for Responsible Government.[13] Eight days later, on October 22, Judge Randa extended his temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the law until November 12. He issued the original order on October 14 and it would have expired on October 28 without further action. Randa also set oral arguments in the case for October 31, 2014. The lawsuit challenging the law was filed by Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates.[14]

A Cornell Law School professor, William A. Jacobson, called the information regarding Chisholm's purported motivation "chilling". Jacobson said "no one has been able to explain why District Attorney John Chisholm has gone to the lengths he has gone to try to find criminal conduct that could taint Governor Walker. If this new information is accurate, now we know the motivation, and there needs to be an investigation of the investigators."[12]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b Gunn, Erik (January 21, 2013). "Invisible No More". Milwaukee Magazine. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ Diedrich, John (November 14, 2008). "McGee pleads no contest to two state charges". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ Schultze, Steve (March 5, 2010). "Toni Clark gets six months in jail". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ Schultze, Steve (August 24, 2012). "Jury acquits Thomas on bribery, misconduct charges". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  5. ^ Explanation of what a "John Doe investigation" is, hbslawfirm.com; accessed November 8, 2014.
  6. ^ Bice, Daniel; Dave Umhoefer (March 2, 2013). "John Doe probe of Scott Walker office closed with no new charges". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  7. ^ Daniel Bice, "Sister says ex-Walker aide's life ruined by John Doe probe" jsonline.com; accessed November 8, 2014.
  8. ^ "'Easy target': Kelly Rindfleisch breaks silence about John Doe probe", Wisconsin Reporter, watchdog.org, April 2, 2014; accessed November 8, 2014.
  9. ^ Former Walker aide Timothy Russell reaches plea deal, November 29, 2012; accessed November 8, 2014.
  10. ^ Steve Schultze, "Ex-Walker aide Timothy Russell sentenced to 2 years in prison for veterans theft", Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, January 22, 2013; accessed November 8, 2014.
  11. ^ Profile of Chisholm-initiated "John Doe" investigation, legalnewsline.com; accessed November 8, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Martosko, David,Daily Mail report on Chisholm's "John Doe" investigations, dailymail.co.uk; accessed November 5, 2014.
  13. ^ Judge Randa's October 14, 2014 ruling regarding DA Chisholm's "John Doe" investigations, watchdog.org; accessed November 5, 2014.
  14. ^ Judge extends block on Wisconsin campaign law", fox11online.com, October 22, 2014; accessed November 5, 2014.