A state appeals court on Wednesday upheld the criminal conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch, a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, rejecting arguments that prosecutors in the first John Doe investigation illegally seized 16,000 private emails.
Rindfleisch’s attorney, Franklyn Gimbel of Milwaukee, said his client plans to appeal Wednesday’s 2-1 decision.
Rindfleisch, 46, was sentenced to six months in jail with work release privileges and three years of probation for doing campaign work on county time, but that sentence was stayed pending appeal.
The former deputy chief of staff to Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive had argued that the prosecution used unconstitutionally broad search warrants to obtain emails from her Yahoo and Google accounts from 2009 and 2010.
But the state 1st District Court of Appeals panel in Milwaukee rejected that argument.
“Rindfleisch has failed to present any evidence at any time during these proceedings that tends to suggest that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the seizure authorized in these warrants,” judges Patricia Curley and Joan Kessler ruled.
The two judges said prosecutors had probable cause and the warrants were sufficiently specific to seize the emails. The ruling upholds the decision by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher that allowed the emails to be used in prosecuting Rindfleisch.
Judge Ralph Adam Fine dissented, finding that Rindfleisch’s emails were seized to help prosecutors investigate another Walker aide, Tim Russell, who also was convicted as a result of the probe.
Fine wrote that the majority opinion endorsed allowing “the government to rummage through Kelly Rindfleisch’s digital files for evidence of her crime even though the search warrants sought evidence in those files of another’s crime by another person (Tim Russell).”
Gimbel said Rindfleisch will appeal Wednesday’s decision to the state Supreme Court. He said Fine’s dissent “hit the nail on the head.”
“The race isn’t over until you’re exhausted,” Gimbel said, “and I’m not exhausted yet.”
Rindfleisch had pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office in October 2012 for doing campaign fundraising for then-lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis during the time she was receiving a county paycheck.
Rindfleisch’s 2013 appeal argued that prosecutors used unconstitutionally broad search warrants in seizing her emails. She lost an earlier battle at the appeals court to have those emails remain under seal, and thousands of pages were released after the State Journal and other media outlets sought to make them public.
The emails showed blurring of campaign and official business by Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive when he was running for governor in 2010.
Five other Walker aides and associates, including Russell, were also convicted of various crimes as part of the so-called John Doe I probe that ensnared Rindfleisch. Walker was not charged.