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Will Scott Walker Get a Pink Slip, Orange Jumpsuit or a Second Chance?

Beyond Tuesday's recall vote, Wisconsin's embattled governor seems headed for criminal indictment on corruption charges.

Since September of 2010 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) has been detailing an ongoing "John Doe" criminal investigation being run out of the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office involving Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's former staff and associates. The wide-ranging investigation has included allegations of campaign finance malfeasance, embezzlement of veterans funds, bid-rigging, and even child enticement during the period when Walker served as Milwaukee County Executive, but was running for governor. 

On June 1, 2012, the MJS broke the story that Milwaukee County prosecutors were forced to move from a regular investigation to a secret "John Doe" criminal investigation more than two years ago after being stonewalled by the County Executive's office. Court records released in the trial of one of the defendants showed that prosecutors said Walker's office had been "unwilling or unable" to turn over requested records. This new information contradicts Walker's repeated claims that he has been "fully cooperating" with the investigation since the start. 

As of today, this ongoing criminal investigation has resulted in six indictments, 15 felony charges, and two convictions. At the moment, five people are awaiting trial. Below we provide a John Doe primer for the uninitiated. 

1) What is a John Doe investigation?

In Wisconsin, a "John Doe" investigation is a closed-door criminal proceeding that operates much like a Grand Jury does in other states. Rather than appearing before a jury, though, a John Doe investigation takes place before a judge. Witnesses with evidence relevant to the investigation can be subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath about potential crimes. Due to the secrecy rules governing the investigation, the scope and targets of the investigation are sometimes difficult to discern. The John Doe investigation involving Walker's tenure as County Executive is being prosecuted by the Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm before Judge Neal Nettesheim of Waukesha. It has been underway since May of 2010, but it is active and ongoing, with the latest immunity deal being announced last week. New evidence emerged this weekend that there is also a parallel federal investigation underway. 

2) Who is the target of the investigation?

When Current TV's David Shuster broke the story on Friday that Walker was a "target" of the investigation he cited anonymous sources. On Saturday, Walker issued a strong denial, saying any suggestions that he has become a target of the John Doe probe are "100 percent wrong." Late on Saturday, Shuster revealed more. "I stand by my reporting 100 percent," Shuster said in a conference call reported by the Progressive Magazine, citing sources with the U.S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, and clarifying that there is a parallel federal investigation. Shuster also said that Walker's attorneys had been seeking to have their client publicly cleared of wrongdoing for the last five or six weeks, but prosecutors would not clear him.

Shuster's report is the first on a federal investigation parallel to the ongoing investigation by the Milwaukee DA, but the news did not come as a surprise. Walker has hired high-powered criminal defense lawyers and is using a portion of his $30 million raised for the campaign to pay legal bills being run up by his campaign attorneys and his personal criminal defense attorneys, over $320,000 combined so far. The use of a campaign war chest to pay legal fees is only permitted under Wisconsin statutes when a person or their "agent" acting on their behalf are "under investigation for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal violation" under campaign finance and election laws. Walker announced he was starting a criminal defense fund in March 2012.