Crime and Court Roundup: Former Walker Milwaukee County aide will plead guilty instead of going through a trialWisconsin News
-- A former top Walker aide in Milwaukee County has decided to make a plea deal, instead of going through a trial next week on felony misconduct charges.
A former top Walker aide in Milwaukee County has decided to make a plea deal, instead of going through a trial next week on felony misconduct charges. The Journal Sentinel says Kelly Rindfleisch will plead guilty to at least one felony count during a plea hearing that’s scheduled for tomorrow. But the pleas are not certain yet, because the two sides are expected to finalize the terms of the bargain today. The 43-year-old Rindfleisch was the deputy chief-of-staff to now-Governor Scott Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive. She’s accused of doing campaign work for Walker and lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis in 2010, during the hours she was supposed to be working for the county. Walker was subpoenaed to testify, but media reports said his lawyer was going to try to get the subpoena quashed. State Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch was also on the prosecution’s witness list, along with 2010 Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes. Rindfleisch will be the second person to be convicted in a more than two-year-old John Doe investigation into Walker’s former Milwaukee County aides. Darlene Wink pleaded guilty to illegal campaigning, but avoided jail time by helping prosecutors in the ongoing John Doe probe. Kevin Kavanaugh, who was appointed by Walker to a county panel, is currently on trial for allegedly embezzling 42-thousand-dollars from a program to help veterans. That trial started Monday, and is expected to run through the end of the week.
A former employee of an historic Jackson County restaurant has been accused of burning the place down, to help his boss with financial problems. 19-year-old Kyle Rott was charged yesterday with felony arson for a blaze 15 months ago. It destroyed the Rustic Mill Bar and Restaurant in a 146-year-old building near Black River Falls. Prosecutors said a couple ran the eatery for almost a year before closing it down a few days before the blaze. The criminal complaint said a man who owned it offered 10-thousand-dollars to Rott for starting the fire – but Rott said he’d do it for a couple packs of cigarettes, and they laughed and shook hands. The man’s son reportedly overheard the conversation, and he thought it was a joke until Rott said the day of the blaze he would keep his word. The male owner told investigators he owed over 60-thousand dollars to vendors and a building contractor – and while he said he wished the restaurant would burn down, he hoped Rott wouldn’t take the offer seriously. The owner has not been charged, but District Attorney Gerald Fox says the investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible. For now, Rott is free on a signature bond. He’s due back in court October 22nd. The Rustic Mill building opened in 1866. It was a grist mill and a night-club before it became a restaurant in the mid-1960’s.
Four Milwaukee Police officers are on paid leave, after appearing in court yesterday on charges that they illegally strip-searched drug suspects during the last two years. Prosecutors said that in one case, two officers held a suspect’s arms while another held a gun to the man’s head, and a fourth officer put on a choke-hold while searching a cavity in the man’s buttocks for evidence. Another suspect claimed that he bled from his rectum for several days after police searched it. The main suspect is eight-year veteran Michael Vagnini, who’s charged with 25 counts of illegal strip searches, sexual assault, and misconduct in public office. Officer Jeffrey Dollhopf is charged with four total counts of misconduct and illegal searches. Officers Jacob Knight and Brian Kozelek face two counts each. The Milwaukee police union said the charges result from pressure by the top brass to bolster arrest statistics. The case is just the latest blow to a police force that’s been rocked by a death in police custody, refusing to let a mother be with her murdered son at the crime scene, and reporting inaccurate crime statistics. Police Chief Ed Flynn has been under pressure from a number of circles to resign, but he again said yesterday that he’s not going anywhere. Flynn said the test of his department is not whether misconduct occurs – it’s how the department responds to it. And the chief said quote, “This agency has responded at every level of the organization – effectively, rapidly, and directly.”