Ex-Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch agrees to plea deal in public corruption case

2012-10-11T04:30:00Z 2013-03-01T13:22:33Z Ex-Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch agrees to plea deal in public corruption caseDEE J. HALL and MARY SPICUZZA | Wisconsin State Journal madison.com

A former aide to Gov. Scott Walker will be in court Thursday afternoon, when she is expected to plea to one felony count of misconduct in public office.

The plea agreeement between Kelly Rindfleisch, 43, and Milwaukee County prosecutors is subject to approval by Judge David Hansher. The 1:30 p.m. plea hearing is scheduled in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

The two sides have agreed that the state will recommend a sentence of probation for Rindfleisch, 43, of Columbus, who was deputy chief of staff for Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive. She had faced up to 14 years in prison and a $40,000 fine for four counts of misconduct in public office.

The agreement calls for Rindfleisch to continue cooperating with the prosecution handling her case but doesn't mention whether she would testify in other current or possible future cases.

Rindfleisch is charged with four felonies for campaign work done on behalf of the 2010 lieutenant governor campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, while working in Walker's office. Davis now runs the state's Medicaid program under Walker.

According to the agreement, the state will recommend that Rindfleisch serve some jail time as a condition of her probation. However, the deal allows Milwaukee attorney Franklyn Gimbel to argue for any sentence the defense sees fit. And it says the state won't pursue her to pay any restitution. Hansher will have the final say on a sentence.

The agreement also releases Rindfleisch from any liability for criminal prosecution in Columbia County, where she lives, for alleged illegal campaign fundraising done between January and April of 2010 when she worked in Walker's office.

Rindfleisch's trial is scheduled to begin Monday. Walker has been subpoenaed to testify Tuesday.

The governor has repeatedly said he does not believe he is a target of the lengthy John Doe investigation that has spawned criminal charges against four of his aides and associates, including Rindfleisch.

Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said, "Governor Walker continues to fully cooperate with authorities and will see the legal proceedings take their course."

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf declined to comment Wednesday on the impending deal.

Guilty plea for one aide

Walker's former constituent services director, Darlene Wink, has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of political solicitation by a public employee.

Wink, the other aide to reach a plea deal, is still awaiting sentencing. In exchange, Wink agreed to provide information in a related investigation into possible destruction of digital evidence and to cooperate in further prosecutions and proceedings.

Rindfleisch's plea offer letter makes no mention of such an agreement.

But Jessa Nicholson, a Madison criminal defense attorney who is not involved in the case, said in general it's unusual to spell out an agreement in writing — even if there is one.

"It goes to bias and motive," Nicholson said. "The prosecution often won't state that in writing. If there's something in writing, it can undermine the argument that there is no bias."

But Milwaukee attorney Mike Maistelman said the last-minute plea deal indicates to him that Rindfleisch does not have any information to implicate anyone else.

"One theory would be if Kelly had some information that would prove useful in implicating the governor, she would have given it up before the 11th hour before trial," said Maistelman, who earlier in the case represented former Walker aide Tim Russell. "It follows that she didn't have any strong evidence that the prosecution could use.

"If my client had the keys to the jail by talking and cooperating, I'd tell them to talk and cooperate," Maistelman added. "Unless you're in the Mafia or a gang, you usually don't take the fall."

Two other associates of Walker — Russell, former deputy chief of staff, and former county veterans' commission appointee Kevin Kavanaugh — have been charged with allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars intended to benefit Wisconsin veterans. Kavanaugh's trial is being held this week in Milwaukee County.

Dee J. Hall can be reached at dhall@madison.com or 608-252-6132. Mary Spicuzza can be reached at mspicuzza@madison.com or 608-252-6122.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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