Can you go to jail for sending fundraising emails in America? If you're in any way affiliated with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the answer seems to be yes.
Kelly Rindfleisch has been at the center of a four-year legal battle that has been described as "collateral damage" in an attempt to take down the Republican governor by the office of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Venetian Las Vegas, March 29, 2014 (Getty Images/Ethan Miller)
The ordeal has decimated Rindfleisch's life's savings, destroyed her reputation and plunged her into a "deep, deep depression," the Columbus, Wisc., resident said on TheBlaze TV's Real News Monday in her first-ever television interview.
According to court papers, Rindfleisch sent fundraising emails for Brett Davis, a former candidate for lieutenant governor, while working as a staffer for then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
The Wall Street Journal, which received Rindfleisch's first print interview, reported:
Though she had not used county resources—she used her personal computer, personal phone and email accounts to do the fundraising—she didn't always leave the building. "For me, it didn't make sense to take five minutes to get outside to respond to an email for 30 seconds and then spend another five minutes to get back inside," she says. "The only thing I was using was time."
Though her hours were supposed to be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., she says she never left at 4 p.m. and averaged 9-10 hours a day in the office. According to prosecutors, her work for Mr. Davis was perfectly legal but her presence in a government building when she sent the emails was a felony. [Emphasis added]
Fundraising in a public building is only a misdemeanor under Wisconsin's criminal code, but, according to the Journal, "prosecutors opted for the much less specific misconduct charge in order to convict her of a felony."
If Rindfleisch had not accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to misconduct in public office in October 2012, she could have faced over 12 years in prison. But since she plead guilty, she was sentenced to six months jail and three years probation. She is currently appealing the conviction.
TheBlaze's Buck Sexton asked Rindfleisch Monday: "Is there any doubt in your mind whatsoever that you've been treated unfairly, you've been maliciously prosecuted as political payback, as a warning to others in the state of Wisconsin who may become a part of the Scott Walker political orbit ... Is there any doubt in your mind that you've been scapegoated here?"
Rindfleisch responded without hesitation: "No, there's really not any doubt in my mind."
For the Record, TheBlaze TV's investigative news program, examined the case back in February, describing the proceedings against Rindfleisch as part of a "witch hunt" against Walker, who is despised by many on the left for restricting the collective bargaining rights of unions. Dozens of individuals and conservative groups were affected.
Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review weighed in on the case Monday, concluding: "The process is the punishment, and that's increasingly true in America ... They couldn't recall [Walker], so they looked into him as far as they could. They found something tiny this poor woman had done, and now they're destroying her life over it."
The full episode of Real News, along with many other live-streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.