Darlene Wink, former aide to Scott Walker during his term as Milwaukee County Executive and one of several individuals from that office facing charges in a secret "John Doe" investigation into criminal corruption and embezzlement, has had her sentencing hearing postponed for a second time to make sure she follows through on a promise to assist the District Attorney in other related John Doe prosecutions.
Wink pled guilty in February to doing partisan political campaign work on the public dime when she was Walker's constituent services director during his tenure as County Executive.
As part of a plea agreement she entered in January, Wink agreed to cooperate with the John Doe investigation, which included providing testimony in the trial of Tim Russell, another Walker staffer accused of embezzling more than $20,000 from a veteran's group created by the Walker team. This also includes providing investigators with valuable information she is believed to have regarding a coverup and the destruction of digital evidence.
However, because Russell's trial has been postponed twice, prosecutors in the courtroom asked the judge to delay Wink's sentencing to guarantee she will cooperate in Russell's prosecution.
(Tim Russell's partner Brian Pierick is facing child enticement charges in Waukesha County which were uncovered as part the John Doe investigation.) Russell's first attorney, Michael Maistelman, withdrew from the case because he too was named as a "person of interest" in the John Doe investigation. Russell's latest attorney, Dennis Krueger, now faces an ethical conflict-of-interest because he recently took a job as a state prosecutor, leading to additional delays in Russell's trial.
Wink's attorney, Peter Wolff, said after the hearing that his client wished to "resolve this matter as quickly as possible because it is causing her a great deal of stress." However, Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, contended that "her part of the bargain has not been fulfilled -- her cooperation is still needed as it relates to other matters," both with the Russell case and an undisclosed matter in Waukesha County.
Wink faces fines of up to $2,000 and up to a year in jail. In exchange for her assistance, Wink pled guilty to two unclassified misdemeanor counts of political solicitation by a public employee, and in return, the state agreed not to recommend jail time.
Wink is now scheduled to be sentenced on November 21, 2012.
Four other criminal cases resulting from the John Doe investigation are pending and prosecutors appear to be engaged in an elaborate strategy of juggling cases to get lower level employees to testify against higher level employees. As the investigation remains open, it is anticipated that more indictments will follow.
Governor Walker has repeatedly denied being a target of the investigation. However, Walker did set up a legal defense fund which is only allowed under campaign law if Walker or staff under his direction are the target of an investigation.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported that the legal defense fund had paid out $155,489 between April 1 and June 30 of this year, including a nearly $10,000 payment to APCO Worldwide Inc., one of the largest independent public relations agencies in the country. The remainder of the spending went to law firms, including $115,000 to Chicago law firm Sidley Austin LLP, where Walker has reportedly retained the services of criminal defense attorney John Gallo.
When Wink's attorney was questioned by reporters on July 17 about Walker's involvement he responded only that "Walker is not involved in this part of the case."