John Doe targets in Wisconsin can finally tell their stories

Now that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has forcefully terminated the John Doe investigations in Wisconsin, the targets of those probes can now speak openly of their experiences at the hands of politically motivated prosecutors. Some of those experiences began leaking out a few months ago, courtesy of David French and his mainly unnamed victims of the Government Accountability Board’s jeremiad against Scott Walker supporters. The court decision offers a few more description of the nighttime and dawn raids on homes and the prosecutors’ abuse of the rights of those targets, but now with the case at an end, the victims can finally speak openly to what happened.

The WSJ’s Collin Levy interviews Eric O’Keefe, the Wisconsin Club for Growth official who found himself and his colleagues at the center of an attack that he couldn’t have dreamed possible in his state — or in America:

John Doe Judge Neal Nettesheim compelled Mr. Johnson’s attorney to disclose what emails they had reviewed together and told him that attorney-client privilege didn’t apply. “When we sat down for our interview, I was told my attorney couldn’t speak, couldn’t object. I was asked how does my business operate, who are my contacts, how do I make money, what are my percentages, who are my clients? If I didn’t answer I would be in contempt.”

At the end of that conversation, Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgrafasked a question, Mr. Johnson recalls: “ ‘Is there any reason at the end of the campaign you deleted all of your emails?’ So I knew then I had been tracked all the way through, that they had been reading my emails. . . . They knew what they were looking for all along, but I didn’t know anything again until they showed up at my door.”

Once news of the subpoenas was leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a favorite venue for prosecutors, his business was in the cross hairs. While many of his longtime contacts were supportive, Mr. Johnson says, some business calls went unreturned, and he had to pass up an opportunity in another state because he could have been a liability for the clients. “Even if they hadn’t heard about the Doe” investigation, he says, “it would have been unethical for me to bring them in blind. So I had to turn down business on that account.”

At least O’Keefe R. J. Johnson [see correction below] knew his home had been raided. His business partner tells Levy that prosecutors took business records without notifying either of them, and still have not accounted for what was seized:

His business partner, Deborah Jordahl, says that while her own home was being searched and her children were roused in the dark by law enforcement, prosecutors were searching her office without her knowledge. “Earlier this year I learned . . . David Budde,the lead investigator for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, was searching our office in Madison. My partner and I were never notified of the search of our office,” Ms. Jordahl says, “and the prosecutors never provided us with a copy of the warrant or an inventory of what was taken.” (Mr. Budde did not respond to a request for comment.)

The raid on Johnson’s home took place while his 16-year-old son was home alone. Law enforcement told the minor that he could not call his parents during the raid — or a lawyer:

Mr. Johnson was on a plane when the raids happened, and his 16-year-old son woke up at home to find six law-enforcement agents with guns and a warrant. “He was told he couldn’t move, that he couldn’t call a lawyer, that he couldn’t call his parents. He was a minor and he was isolated by law enforcement,” Mr. Johnson says.

Thanks to David French, the rough outlines of the abuses suffered by politically active conservatives in Wisconsin have already been known, but are still shocking to the conscience. What possible rational reason would a state government have to conduct raids on residences in the middle of the night to seize records, while denying these citizens — and especially a minor — resort to legal counsel and the consultation of his parents? The GAB in Wisconsin, the prosecutors, and the judges involved perpetrated an abuse that one normally sees in banana republics rather than an American community.

Let’s keep telling these stories, and make it clear that we will not tolerate this kind of oppression and abuse of power in the future.

Correction, 7/26/15: I got confused about whose home got raided (my fault, not the WSJ’s). The raid happened to R. J. Johnson, not Eric O’Keefe. I’ve corrected it above; my apologies for the error.