News 4/23/2010

Edwards Requests Another Delay

4/23/10 – A Jefferson County judge will be asked next month for another delay in the trial of an elderly man accused of killing two high school sweet-hearts 30 years ago. Edward Edwards was arrested last year, and he was originally supposed to go on trial in January. It was postponed until March, and then to June 14th which is Edwards’ 77th birthday. Now, his defense lawyer wants a third delay to have more time to prepare. A hearing on that is set for May sixth. Edwards, who wrote a book about being a traveling criminal a number of years ago, is charged in the 1980 slayings of Tim Hack and Kelly Drew.

Two Beaver Dam Men Now Charged In Assault

4/23/10 – A Beaver Dam man was bound over for trial yesterday on charges that he assaulted two young teens. Christopher Bowers is charged with two felony counts of Second Degree Sexual Assault of a Child. Judge Andrew Bissonnette found probable cause to proceed during the preliminary hearing. The 19-year-old allegedly had a relationship with one teen last fall. The second offense is said to have occurred earlier this month, with a young runaway that Bowers and another man were reportedly hiding. According to the criminal complaint, he admitted to the relationships but said all contact stopped once he learned their age. Bowers said during questioning that he had been under the impression that both teens were 17-years-old, which investigators pointed out was still illegal. Witnesses told police that Bowers continued his relationship with both girls even after learning their age, and even helped remove ‘missing persons posters’ with the age of the victim listed. When being questioned about the runaway earlier this month, Bowers reportedly admitted to contact with the young teen last fall and yet another 16-year-old victim. Witnesses also told police that he has been with as many as four other girls under the age of 15. Bowers is being held on a $10,000 cash bond. Meanwhile, a second Beaver Dam man has been charged in connection with assaulting the young runaway. 18-year-old Robert Hinkley Jr. has an initial hearing on May 3 on charges of Second Degree Sexual Assault of a Child.

Burwitz Waives Prelim on Rape Charges

4/23/10 – A Beaver Dam man has waived his right to preliminary hearing on charges that he raped a woman earlier this month. Richard Burwitz Sr. is charged with one felony count of Second Degree Sexual Assault with the Use of Force. According to the criminal complaint, the victim drove the 52-year-old around to run errands. When she went into his home to collect gas money, he allegedly forced her to the floor. Burwitz contends the sex was consensual and says she called the police to get out of paying an $80 loan. The charge carries a maximum 40 year prison sentence, but because Burwitz was convicted of Third Degree Sexual Assault in 2004, he could have another six years added to the sentence upon conviction. He is also facing two felony bail jumping charges because he was charged with his fifth OWI in January. Burwitz is being held on a $10,000 cash bond and will be back in court for an arraignment hearing May 12.

Unemployment Still Hovers In Double Digits

4/23/10 – The unemployment rate in the area remained largely unchanged from February to March. Dodge County is still in double digits at 10.6%, a drop of two-tenths of a percent from the previous month. Columbia and Fond du Lac Counties both dropped two-tenths to 9.9%. Washington County is also at 9.9%, after increasing by two-tenths of a percent. Jefferson County also increased by two-tenths to 10.7%. Thirty of the state’s 72 counties saw a decrease last month while eight remained unchanged. Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman says 4900 jobs were added in March with gains in 11 of the state’s 12 metro areas. Gassman says the job gains underscore the state’s continued economic recovery. Dane County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the state, even though they notched up three-tenths to 6.5%. Rush County has the highest county rate at 15%. Nationally, the jobless rate is at 10.2%. The statewide rate is at 9.8%.

Corp Exec’s Say Job Growth Tied To Income Tax

4/23/10 – Corporate executives say the best way to create jobs is for the government to cut income taxes. That’s according to a survey by the financial firm of Grant Thornton. Almost 500 chief financial officers and senior comptrollers were surveyed – including 76 in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Thirty-five percent of Midwest C-F-O’s said cutting personal income taxes is the most effective way to create job opportunities – while 32-percent said it would be best to reduce corporate taxes. Over 80-percent of the Midwest execs believe the economy will improve or remain the same this year – and almost half expect a more robust recovery in 2011. But they’re also cautious about adding employees. Only one fifth of the Midwest corporate officers said their firms would increase their hiring in the next six months. About 25-percent said they will decrease their hiring.

Controversial Legislation Dies As State Senate Adjourns

4/23/10 – The Wisconsin State Senate has adjourned for the session, and the move likely means the end of the road for a number of controversial bills at the Capitol. The Senate wrapped up its action for the year before the Assembly could take action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Regional Transit Authority legislation, and a number of other bills that were scheduled for votes later in the day.

Before adjournment, the Senate did approve further changes to legislation regulating payday lending in Wisconsin. The bill now heads back to the state Assembly for final approval. The Senate also gave final legislative approval to immediate coverage for low-income adults who don’t have children. About 34-thousand Wisconsinites are about to become eligible for bare-bones health insurance, while they stay on a waiting list for a more extensive version of Badger Care Plus. State officials got swamped when Badger Care was opened to childless adults last year – and by October, Governor Jim Doyle set up a waiting list and ordered health officials to come up with a bare-bones plan to help those adults in the meantime. The coverage will be called “Badger Care Basic,” and it will cost 130-dollars a month. It will run through the end of 2013. The plan would be paid for by premiums and co-payments of those who take the coverage. But Republican opponents said they were certain that taxpayers would be hit with the bill eventually. Doyle must still sign the bill – but because he called for the Basic program in the first place, his signature is mainly a formality.

Hit and Run Suspect Arraigned

4/23/10 – An Oshkosh man, accused of striking a vehicle on Highway 151 near Beaver Dam and leaving the scene, stood mute at arraignment Thursday and had a “not guilty” plea entered on his behalf. The incident occurred on the afternoon of Christmas Eve when Justin Van Dera allegedly struck the vehicle from behind. Two of the passengers complained of neck injures but were not transported. The 29-year-old Van Dera has six active traffic cases in the state and in the last two years has been found guilty of 21 traffic offenses in five counties and had another half dozen charges dismissed.

Gaugert Arraigned On Failure To Report Charges

4/23/10 – A 48-year-old Juneau man pleaded “not guilty” yesterday to a felony charge of “Failure To Report To Jail.” In 2008, Dean Gaugert was sentenced to eight months in jail for fleeing from authorities while drunk. Gaugert was supposed to serve an eight month jail sentence but a bench warrant was issued in March of last year and his work released privileges were suspended. He has not had a valid driver’s license since 1997. Gaugert waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday and has a plea set for next week.

WDNR Invests in Electric Trucks

4/23/10 – The fresh air in Wisconsin state parks is about to become even fresher. D-N-R Secretary Matt Frank says his agency has bought electric trucks for 22 state park facilities – and they’ll run a lot cleaner than the current gas-powered trucks at a fraction of the cost. For starters, Frank says the electric trucks are 30-to-50-percent cheaper to buy. And the cost to operate an electric vehicle is about two-tenths-of-a-cent per mile, instead of the 62-cents-a-mile for the gas-powered pick-ups. Frank also says the electric trucks produce almost five tons less of carbon per year than a typical three-quarter-ton pick-up which goes about eight-thousand-miles in that span. The D-N-R leader said the trucks were paid for by the state Parks Heritage Account, which is made up of fees from utilities and others seeking easements for things like power lines.

Day Of Prayer Ruling Challenged

4/23/10 – The U-S Justice Department is appealing last week’s ruling from Madison Federal Judge Barbara Crabb which said the National Day of Prayer is un-constitutional. A notice was filed today in Madison which sends the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Crabb ruled in favor of Madison’s Freedom from Religion Foundation, which contends that the National Day of Prayer violates the separation of church-and-state. Crabb ruled that the Day of Prayer amounts to a government establishment of religion, in violation of the First Amendment. Congress approved the National Day of Prayer in 1952. In ’88, they set the day as the first Thursday in May. Former President George W. Bush held organized activities for the Day of Prayer. But President Obama did away with that – but he still issued a proclamation urging Americans to pray on that day. Crabb said she would not enforce her ruling until all appeals are exhausted. As a result, the Obama White House said it would again declare May sixth as this year’s prayer day.

Cosmic Gold Rush

4/23/10 – Farmers in Iowa County say it’s something like a gold rush. Meteorite hunters have descended on southwest Wisconsin ever since last week’s fireball that was seen in the sky. People living in Iowa County say they’ve seen license plates from as far away as Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. The largest piece of meteorite discovered so far weighed 219 grams and is valued at up to 22 hundred dollars.