Emails reveal inconsistencies with Schimel’s Lincoln Hills’ youth prison investigation answer

MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) -- New emails obtained by 7 Investigates reveal inconsistencies in outgoing Attorney General Brad Schimel’s answer blaming former Corrections Secretary Ed Wall’s medical record mismanagement for causing major delays in the state Department of Justice’s Lincoln Hills’ youth prison criminal investigation.

"Part of the problem was that he [Wall] wasn't making sure that people kept the medical records," Schimel told 7 Investigates on Oct. 3, 2015. “"So we had to go to extraordinary lengths to locate records just to corroborate claims of injuries. There's very poor record keeping. Again, that's Mr. Wall's responsibility. No one elses."

After Schimel's interview, DOJ Spokesperson Rebecca Ballweg would not answer follow up questions.

The length of the youth prison criminal investigation would become significant, because numerous staff members accused of abuse were suspended without extended periods of resolution. And, as time went on, other staff members were also hurt.

After not responding to interview requests, 7 Investigates requested all records where the state Justice Department had asked the Department of Corrections for medical records related to the DOJ’s Lincoln Hills’ investigation during the year 2015.

The DOC's timeline initially shows DOJ staff telling DOC leaders six months after their criminal investigation began on Jan. 23, 2015 that it had then ended on July 29, 2015. However, the new emails show it was not until almost four months later, on Nov. 24, 2015, when the DOJ's first medical records email was sent.

“As DCI continues to compare interviews with incident reports and other information, we were hoping to examine medical bills, transport logs, or other information associated with the off-campus medical treatment of youth injuries,” DCI Field Operations Director Jody Wormet wrote in the Nov. 24 email. “Would you be willing to kindly provide Dave Forsythe with copies of these types of records on file with DOC for the previous two years using today’s date as an end reference point?”

That email was written three days after DOC records show senior DOJ staff telling Wall and his staff they, “have not ruled out the possibility of John Doe Hearings and are still actively conducting criminal investigations.” Even though court records show the Lincoln Hill’s John Doe investigation had already begun on Oct. 22, 2015.

During the Nov. 19 meeting, the DOC timeline also shows Wall raising concerns.

"And I was dumbstruck. My staff was dumbstruck,” Wall told 7 Investigates in August. “And I turned and said after 10 months you haven't even requested an investigative report. Or a medical report. And the answer was no. They hadn't. So then tell me this. After 10 months of investigation, do you have enough to charge a single person with any kind of crime? And he said ‘no we don't’."

Former DOC Director of the Office of Special Operations Steve Wierenga immediately responded to the DOJ’s Wormet on Nov. 24, 2015, saying, "We will provide what we have as soon as possible." The emails then show it taking DOJ staff an additional 13 days before a detailed explanation was sent. On Dec. 7, 2015, DOJ Assistant Attorney General Donald Latorraca asked for medical, mental health, chaplain and personnel records.

“DCI wants to minimize taking records unnecessarily,” Latorraca wrote. “It is focused on only securing those types of records that will corroborate misconduct claims.”

During that same week of Latorraca’s email, the FBI took over the Lincoln Hills’ investigation.

"That's why the DOJ handed this off to the Feds for. Because they botched this investigation for months. And knew they were going to be held to answer questions as to ‘why did it take long,’" Wall said

“He's deflecting responsibility for failures at that juvenile correctional institution on others when it was his, he owns this,” Schimel said.

Wall feels Schimel targeted him to be fired as Wall attempted to get his old DOJ job back because he knew too much about what he calls, ‘the failure of the DOJ’s investigation’. Wall continues to say Schimel’s reason that he attempted to violate the state’s open records law is a diversion from the truth.

The emails end in 2015, so it is unclear what happened in the first part of 2016. By April 2016, the DOJ John Doe investigation was closed. Justice leaders said since the FBI was involved there was no reason to ask for an extension.

7 Investigates has tried repeatedly to obtain DOJ records, including a timeline of the 734 interviews Schimel said were conducted as part of the criminal investigation. All records requests have been denied citing the ongoing FBI investigation.

Click here to see Schimel’s full response.