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Governor Walker Hires Prominent Criminal Defense Attorney

February 3, 2012

This is ramping up just in time for the recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Gov. Scott Walker has hired two experienced defense attorneys and will meet with Milwaukee County prosecutors about the John Doe investigation into his current and former aides.

Walker, a Republican, said he had hired two attorneys, Michael Steinle and John Gallo. Steinle, a prominent criminal defense attorney, has declined to return repeated calls this week. A spokesman for Gallo, a former federal prosecutor based in Chicago at the firm Sidley Austin LLP, said the firm didn’t comment on ongoing matters.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, who is overseeing the John Doe investigation, also declined to comment.

“I have nothing to say on that,” Landgraf said.

Taking questions from reporters last week, Walker said that he was not a target of the John Doe investigation.

But the governor last week declined to answer a question about whether he or his legal team had been contacted by investigators. Earlier in January, Walker had said flatly that he had not been contacted by prosecutors.

It’s not clear from the statement how Walker is paying for Steinle and Gallo. His campaign records show no payments to either lawyer’s firm.

Former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, who is representing Walker’s campaign, had pointed out last year that Wisconsin statutes do not allow campaign funds to be used for “the purpose of supporting or defending a person who is being investigated for, charged with or convicted of a criminal violation.”

But Wisconsin politicians may set up defense funds and transfer donations from their campaign account if they get contributors’ authorization. Former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, a Republican, and ex-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, a Democrat, both set up defense funds to help pay for their lawyers after they were charged criminally during the caucus scandal nearly a decade ago.

Federal records do not indicate that Walker has created such a fund.

Steinle is one of Milwaukee’s most established criminal defense attorneys, representing defendants charged with everything from white-collar crimes to murder.

His grandfather, Roland J. Steinle Sr., served on the state Supreme Court in the 1950s, resigning to launch an unsuccessful bid to defeat then-U.S. Sen. William Proxmire. Steinle’s father, Roland J. Steinle Jr., was known as a hard-nosed trial attorney whose best known client was Milwaukee crime boss Frank Balistrieri.

Last week, two staffers who worked directly for Walker while he was county executive were charged with illegally doing political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs.

Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said that the state “has never had a governor so closely tied to an ongoing criminal corruption probe.”

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