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Tuesday, Federal District Judge Rudolph Randa delivered a crushing blow to Milwaukee prosecutors who now find themselves as defendants over their secretive “John Doe” probe into political groups’ activities in Wisconsin.

Randa, of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, granted a preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiff Eric O’Keefe against Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, two assistant district attorneys, and Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz.

Chisholm spearheaded the probe into O’Keefe’s Club for Growth and 28 other political organizations for “possible illegal campaign coordination” with Governor Scott Walker, and included “paramilitary style” pre-dawn raids into activists’ homes, where they seized computers, files and other property.

The probe has had a chilling effect on activists, which prompted the civil rights lawsuit by O’Keefe. Judge Randa ruled:

The Defendants must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.

Any attempt to obtain compliance by any Defendant or John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson is grounds for a contempt finding by this Court.

Chisholm and his fellow defendants had requested an emergency stay of the proceedings.

One of the men targeted by Chisholm, consultant R.J. Johnson, described his elation at the ruling on his Facebook page:

To those who know the hell we have gone through over the last three months — we have been completely and utterly vindicated. Thank you Lord!

Cornell University Law Professor Bill Jacobson of Legal Insurrection described the ruling—should it hold—as the “death of this John Doe investigation.”

…and a resurgence of the First Amendment in the state of Wisconsin, despite Chisholm’s apparent hostility to freedom.


Since publishing this story, Chisholm and the defendants had been granted an appeal to stay Judge Randa’s injunction, and has since been reversed. Read here for further developments.

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