A Wisconsin state prosecutor is trying to throw cold water on recently unsealed court documents that said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was part of a “criminal scheme.” The unusual step came in the form of a statement released Thursday by a lawyer representing special prosecutor Francis Schmitz.
“While these documents outlined the prosecutor’s legal theory, they did not establish the existence of a crime; rather, they were arguments in support of further investigation to determine if criminal charges against any person or entity are warranted,” attorney Randall Crocker said in the statement, obtained by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
There’s some back story here. Schmitz was appointed last year to lead a state investigation of possible illegal coordination between conservative groups and Walker’s campaign in the state’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Schmitz now has his own lawyers because one of the targets of the investigation, Wisconsin Club for Growth, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the probe. Following a district judge’s dramatic ruling last month to shut down the probe, the suit is now before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. And it was the appeals court that last week unsealed the documents that argued that Walker, his campaign, and two of his close allies were involved in a criminal scheme “to utilize and direct 501(c)4 organizations, as well as other political committees.”
The documents were the clearest public explanation of what the prosecutors were looking at in the long-running probe, and they were seized on by the news media. But in his statement on Thursday, Crocker cautioned that his client had made “no conclusions as to whether there is sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.”
“It is wrong for any person to point to this sentence in a legal argument as a finding by the Special Prosecutor that Governor Walker has engaged in a criminal scheme,” Crocker wrote. “lt is not such a finding.”
Crocker also wrote that at the time that the investigation was halted by a federal judge, Walker “was not a target of the investigation,” and had not been served with a subpoena.
According to the Journal Sentinel, Walker responded to Crocker’s statement on Thursday by saying that it was “just one more step in setting the record straight.” Walker, speaking at a campaign stop, said that his legal team had not asked Crocker to issue the statement, and said that he is not negotiating with prosecutors to settle the investigation — a possibility that emerged in media reports just a few weeks ago.