- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin appeals court on Tuesday upheld a theft conviction against Tim Russell, a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Scott Walker when Walker was Milwaukee County executive.

The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled against Russell in his appeal of his 2012 conviction, rejecting a pair of arguments Russell made.

Russell was one of six people charged as the result of a John Doe investigation into Walker’s county executive office. A second John Doe probe, which focused on alleged illegal coordination between Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and conservative groups, is stalled and has not resulted in any charges.

Russell was Walker’s deputy chief of staff in 2009 and 2010 and was charged with stealing more than $21,000 from a nonprofit group benefiting veterans, money he used in part to pay for Caribbean and Hawaiian vacations.

He pleaded guilty to one felony theft count in a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to 2 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $24,000 in restitution.

Russell argued on appeal that his due process rights were violated because he said he was wrongly sentenced for the crime of misconduct in office, rather than theft.

But the appeals court said Russell did not show that the lower court inaccurately thought he was being sentenced for misconduct in office. In fact, the judge explicitly said Russell was being sentenced for theft, not misconduct in office, the appeals court said.

“Upon reading the transcript as a whole, it is clear that the circuit court knew that Russell was pleading guilty to theft and sentenced him appropriately,” the appeals court said.

Russell also argued that the amount he was ordered to pay back was too high by about $5,000. That was based on what Russell paid for office space that prosecutors said Russell used for personal and political use, but that was paid for with money from the veterans fund.

The appeals court said prosecutors provided sufficient evidence to justify ordering Russell to pay that amount back.

Russell’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment. Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck declined to comment.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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