The physical, emotional and unconstitutional abuse of Wisconsin conservative activists in the “John Doe” investigations.
We have been covering the “John Doe” investigations of Scott Walker and Wisconsin conservatives since January 2014, when it came on our radar after a state court judge quashed certain subpoenas.
John Doe No. 1 targeted Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive. That probe failed to find any misconduct by Walker.
John Doe No. 2 targeted alleged illegal coordination during the Recall Election between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups. A state court judge already has ruled that even if there was such coordination, it was not illegal; that ruling is on appeal in the state courts.
A federal District Court ruled the same way, but was reversed by the federal appeals court primarily on procedural grounds as to whether a federal court should interfere in a state investigation; a request is pending for the U.S. Supreme Court to take that case. In a second federal case, the same District Judge ordered Wisconsin not to enforce its coordination law as relates to issue advocacy. We’ll see if that holds up on appeal.
While the legal proceedings are interesting, it is the physical and emotional abuse visited up innocent conservative activists by John Doe investigators that is particularly outrageous.
We’ve focused on the home raids before, including this description by George Will, The nastiest political tactic this year:
The early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.
David French in National Review has more details on the battering rams and intimidation, Wisconsin’s Shame: ‘I Thought It Was a Home Invasion’:
Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking.
She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram. She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door. “I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.
As French details, Cindy Archer wasn’t a criminal. She just happened to be a Wisconsin conservative, and the police seized her laptop and cell phone:
They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off. The neighbors started to come outside, curious at the commotion, and all the while the police searched her house, making a mess, and — according to Cindy — leaving her “dead mother’s belongings strewn across the basement floor in a most disrespectful way.”
Then they left, carrying with them only a cellphone and a laptop.
Cindy Archer wasn’t alone. French tells the story of “Anne”:
“IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH.”
That was the first thought of “Anne” (not her real name).
Someone was pounding at her front door. It was early in the morning — very early — and it was the kind of heavy pounding that meant someone was either fleeing from — or bringing — trouble. “It was so hard. I’d never heard anything like it. I thought someone was dying outside.”
She ran to the door, opened it, and then chaos. “People came pouring in. For a second I thought it was a home invasion. It was terrifying. They were yelling and running, into every room in the house. One of the men was in my face, yelling at me over and over and over.”
It was indeed a home invasion, but the people who were pouring in were Wisconsin law-enforcement officers. Armed, uniformed police swarmed into the house. Plainclothes investigators cornered her and her newly awakened family. Soon, state officials were seizing the family’s personal property, including each person’s computer and smartphone, filled with the most intimate family information.
French has other stories in his column.
It was a full-frontal assault on civil liberties and free speech, as was detailed in Exposed: How Prosecutors targeted Scott Walker and conservatives. It had a profoundly chilling effect on conservative activists, who were afraid to associate with each other or to advance political issues, for fear that they or others would hear the battering ram again at the door.
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