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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Deep Throat, Leaks.... and Me

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I could have titled this Leakapolooza, but that would have been just a bit over the top. Suffice it to say that the DA's office is furiously trying to deflect blame on to others for the leaks in the John Doe probe; and the JS is equally anxious to deflect attention from their own role in in the leakage.. while taking a shot at me. There are a lot of moving parts here, but fortunately, Rick Esenberg deploys his sagacity to clarify the issues here:

As a legal matter, the information concerning "leaks" in papers filed by the District Attorney's office in response to certain motions made by Tim Russell are interesting, but not all that illuminating. (I express no opinion on the merits of the legal issue which the DA was addressing to which, strictly speaking, the issue of these leaks may not be all that pertinent.)

The most interesting is an e-mail from one of Russell's attorneys to talk show host Charlie Sykes from Michael Maistelman, one of Russell's attorneys. The e-mail says that he has "heard" that charges are about to be filed against Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch. Does this show that Maistelman was a source of improper leaks concerning the John Doe?

In a word, no.

Maistelman, as an attorney for another defendant, was presumably uninvolved in the decision to charge Rindfleisch and Wink. He apparently "heard" about the pending charges from someone else. (Indeed, he has said that the e-mail was based on "gossip.')

This would make him a recipient of a leak - not its source.  There is no evidence that that he was under any legal obligation not to pass it along. Who the initial source was - and whether there was a leak that violated a secrecy order - remains unknown. And that is the more critical question.


Nor does the e-mail establish that Sykes was being “hypocritical” for complaining of leaks from the DoeTo the contrary, it substantiated his complaints, even as it did not reveal the original source.


The JS devotes quite a few paragraphs to this story without providing any context: no reference to the many of leaks to ... the newspaper itself. (Jeff Wagner, a former federal prosecutor, addresses the flood of leaks here.) No reference to whether the reporter who wrote the story, Dan Bice, or any other reporter might have received similar emails from attorneys passing on "gossip." No reference to the number of DA staffers who has signed the walker recall petitions, or to the chief investigator who had a "Recall Walker" sign on his lawn.

None of this was necessary, because the newspaper was intent on pushing it's narrative: Gotcha.

Except they didn't.

As Esenberg notes, the email I received was not even a leak... but was perhaps evidence that someone else had leaked. I receive these sorts of tips all the time. In fact, as Esenberg also notes, they are one of the primary reasons that I do complain about the leaks from the supposedly secret investigation.


Who do I think those leakers are? I don't know. Could they be prosecutors? That's a possibility, but there are many other candidates.

In an email earlier this year JS reporter Dan Bice speculated on their identities:

“FBI agents, friends of FBI agents, family of FBI agents, staff in the US Attorney's office, friends of US Attorney's office employees, family members of US Attorney's Office employees, witnesses, friends of witnesses, family members of witnesses, judges, family and friends of judges, judicial aides, court reporters, friends and family of court reporters, lawyers involved in the case, lawyers formerly involved in the case, lawyers with partners involved in the case, friends and family of lawyers currently or formerly involved in the case, certain county workers, friends of those county workers, family members of those county workers.”

As George Mitchell later noted: 

"Bice’s list confirms that the supposed safeguards of the “secret” investigation are a sham.  His possible sources run the gamut of the legal system; Bice exempts virtually no one."


And now for the evolving way the newspaper reported this story. Below are my email exchanges with reporter Steve Schultze, who changed his story throughout the day without acknowledging his previous errors and mis-statements.

After the first version of the story appeared, I noted that they had not bothered to even call me for comment.

Later in the morning, I sent Schultze the following email:

You wrote: "Sykes and other backers of the Republican governor have accused prosecutors of illegally leaking information on the Doe investigation, which was launched more than two years ago."
Please cite specific examples of when I have accused prosecutors of illegal leaks. (I have said that the probe is leaking like a sieve, but have repeatedly said that i did not know who was leaking.)
If you cannot substantiate your sentence, will you run a clarification?

He did change the copy in later version, although he did respond nor acknowledge that he had made the change.

He did however send me this email:

Steven Schultze
11:59 AM (19 hours ago)

How did prosecutors get a copy of Maistelman's email to you? Did you share it with anyone connected to Walker?

I responded:

No idea.

He wrote again:

Did you share it with anyone?

I responded:

Like you I don't comment on my sources.

At this point, Schultze wrote that I "declined to comment" on the emails. After I tweeted that this was untrue (I had sent him several emails), he changed his story to include my quote about the sources.


Later in the afternoon, Schultz thought he had another Gotcha:

From Steve SchultzeCharlie:

     This sound familiar:
The Coming Walker Smear
By Charlie Sykes CREATED May. 18, 2012
With Walker now leading in the polls this was perhaps to be expected. So far it is awfully weak tea, but clearly lefty talkers are trying to peddle rumors (can the JS be far behind) . Here's a story about MSNBC's talker Ed Schultz's rambling speculation on leaks. Despite the efforts by the legal establishment to disparage any criticism of the John Doe process, there are only two possibilities here: (1) This is just a flat out lefty rumor/smear that the Dems are trying to float in their final desperate hours, (2) The Democrat DA is selectively leaking slanted rumors from the "secret" probe to hurt Walker in the final desperate hours.

Steve Schultze Reporter
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

I responded:

Very. Key words "two possibilities"... (Ed) Schultz pulling it out of his butt seemed to be to far more likely making it a flat out smear... As the headline says. Nice try.

In the final story, Schultze does not include my response, or even refer to the fact that I had commented on his question.


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