“News-April 1, 2011”

Pair Charged With Trio of Bar Burglaries


4/1/11 – Two people made court appearances this week in connection with a series of Dodge County tavern break-ins. 32-year-old Nicholas J. Etter of West Salem and 32-year-old Michelle L. Novak of Lyndon Station are each charged with three counts of felony burglary. The pair is accused of breaking into the Dockside Pub and Grille in the Town of Westford in January, Jumpers Bar in the Town of Beaver Dam in February and Chances Bar in the Town of Burnett in March. Thousands of dollars was stolen from poker machines, ATM’s and safes.  According to the criminal complaint, Etter admitted that he was involved but blamed another man for orchestrating the break-ins. Novak reportedly admitted to being the getaway driver and lookout. No one else is currently charged in connection with the spree.  Etter had cash bond set at $10,000 yesterday and will be back in court next Thursday for a preliminary hearing. Novak had a signature bond set at $5000 and will be back in court next month. Both face a maximum sentence of over 37 years in prison, if convicted.


Man Convicted in Multi-State Crime Spree


4/1/11 – A Mount Horeb man was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for breaking into a Reeseville tavern. Jeremy Kahl has been connected to over a hundred burglaries in three states. The 23-year-old pleaded guilty to felony burglary and had misdemeanors counts of Theft and Criminal Damage to Property dismissed. Kahl broke into O’Connor’s bar in Reeseville in July of 2009 and stole money from three gaming machines.  According to the criminal complaint, detectives with the Dane County Sheriffs Department had placed a GPS device on his vehicle because he was suspected in numerous burglaries throughout Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Kahl was arrested two days after the Reeseville burglary in Urbana, Illinois with his girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant at the time. She cooperated with authorities and has received immunity in many of the break-ins. She told police that she was with Kahl for over one hundred of the break-ins. Maps were found that highlighted cities they had visited where either burglaries were committed or where authorities say the couple had been looking to commit a burglary.  Reeseville was highlighted on the map. She told investigators that their “M-O” was to break into bars in smaller cities. Kahl’s three year sentence will run at the same time as any other sentences. He was sentenced last August to 15 years in prison for a series of bar break-ins in Iowa. Kahl was placed on probation on similar charges in Marathon and Sauk counties and has charges pending in Greek Lake County.


Beaver Dam Man Charged With Molestation


4/1/11 – A Beaver Dam man is accused of molesting a preschool-age child. Joseph R. Evans is charged with one felony count of First Degree Sexual Assault of a Child Under the Age of 12. According to the criminal complaint, Evans fondled the victim last month while his grandmother was babysitting her.  The child came home and complained to her mother. When questioned by trained investigators, the child said the inappropriate contact had occurred “lots of times.”  The 23-year-old said the two had been wrestling and an inappropriate contact was accidental and outside the clothes. The felony charge carries a maximum 60 year prison sentence, upon conviction. Cash bond was set at $10,000 on Wednesday and will be in court for a preliminary hearing next Thursday. In an unrelated case, Evans has a plea and sentencing hearing scheduled for next Friday related to the theft of thousands of dollars worth of scrap metal.


Columbus Holds Public Hearings


4/1/11 – Over 30 Columbus residents living along Farnham and Water streets showed up at City Hall this week with questions and comments during two public hearings. Most residents’ objections to scheduled street repairs had to do with assessment costs. It was reported that construction bids on the projects came in lower than initial estimates. Residents will be able to pay off assessment fees over a ten-year period. Engineering plans call for work on North Water Street to start later this month and the Farnham Street resurfacing starting after the Fourth of July.


Full Schedule On Community Comment Today


4/1/11 – On Community Comment this afternoon we’ll sit down with Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. The Republican from Horicon will join us for the hour to discuss the state’s fiscal situation and the planned restrictions on public unions. Fitzgerald will also preview Wisconsin First, a proposed constitution amendment that would set aside tax revenue during prosperous times to lessen the burden during an economic downturn. At 2pm we’ll talk to a representative of the state, county and municipal workers in the Dodge County area. Brian Drumm of AFSCME Local 1323B will talk about the union’s position on the planned collective bargaining restrictions. Following that discussion, we’ll hear from the four Beaver Dam school board candidates who are competing for three open seats in the April 5 election. Community Comment airs weekdays on 1430AM beginning at 12:35pm.


Governor Holds Off on Implementing Budget Directives


4/1/11 – The Walker administration will stop carrying out the new law that limits collective bargaining by public employee unions. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said it was improper for Republicans to have the law published on the Legislature’s Web site last Friday, so it could be implemented last weekend despite a restraining order the judge issued on March 18th. That order blocked the union law until the judge could decide whether the Legislature broke the state Open Meetings Law when they passed it. The Justice Department said the restraining order only applied to the traditional way of adopting the law – in which the secretary-of-state has it published in the Wisconsin State Journal, and it takes effect the next day. Sumi hear take more testimony on the matter tomorrow. Secretary-of-State Doug La Follette said he was pleased with today’s ruling. He called it a clear statement that the law is not in effect until the other legal issues are straightened out. But G-O-P Assembly Finance Chair Robin Vos said it was wrong for a judge in one county to hold up the entire Legislature – and he still believes the law was adopted legally.


Charges Forthcoming In GOP Threats


4/1/11 – Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says he is preparing to charge a woman with making a bomb threat and unlawful use of a computer. The Dane County woman reportedly admitted she was behind death threats earlier in the month that were sent by email to Republican lawmakers including Jeff and Scott Fitzgerald, over their support for the Governor’s budget repair bill. The email they received contained threats, such as “we plan to put a nice little bullet in your head.” It also threatened to place bombs at the Capitol, in their cars, and at their homes. The Justice Department has voiced concerns as to why there has not been any action on the case, which was referred to the District Attorneys office nearly two weeks ago. At that time, Department of Justice found there was no imminent threat, but there was sufficient probable cause for charges.


Hopper Recall Efforts Moving Along


4/1/11 – Organizers for the recall campaign of Fond du Lac Senator Randy Hopper say they are closing in on the number of signatures needed to force a recall election.  A total of just under 15,300 signatures are needed to for a recall against Hopper, whose district includes much of Fond du Lac County and the Dodge County portion of Waupun.  AFSCME, which represents thousands of municipal, county, and state employees, is leading the push.  The group must have the required signatures to the Government Accountability Board by May 2.  The board then has 31 days to verify the signatures.  The earliest an election could be held would be late July or early August.  If two candidates from the same party wanted to run, a primary would be needed, which would push an election even further back.


Recall Petitioners Expected At Polls


4/1/11 – If you vote on Tuesday, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to sign a recall petition while you’re entering or leaving the polling place. Sixteen Wisconsin senators are facing possible recalls for their actions on the law that restricts public union bargaining. And some of those recall groups say they’ll camp outside polling places to gather signatures. If you wonder if that’s legal, it is. Normally, the law prohibits “electioneering” within 100-feet of a polling place. But the state Government Accountability Board says it’s not “electioneering” to gather signatures for an election that’s not related to the ones being contested that day. The state issued a formal legal opinion to that effect in 2007, during a recall effort against former Milwaukee alderman Mike McGee. And the ruling was reaffirmed in 2008. Recall efforts are entering their second-and-final month against eight Republican and eight Democratic senators. Observers expect around half those campaigns will get enough signatures to hold recall votes later in the year.


Jacobs Missing Another Year of Football


4/1/11 – An offensive lineman from Beaver Dam will miss spring football activities at North Dakota State University for the second year in a row. And his coach says Hank Jacobs’ career might be over. Jacobs was part of the team’s 2009 recruiting class, after he was an All-State Wisconsin selection at Beaver Dam. He missed last spring’s activities after shoulder surgery. This year, coach Craig Bohl said Jacobs has a back injury. And Bohl told the Fargo Forum newspaper it might be too much for him to overcome.

Two Grass Fires Near Columbus


4/1/11 – A grass fire near Columbus torched four to six acres of vegetation yesterday.  It happened at a property on Van Buren Road just after 5pm. Jerrod Fox with the Columbus Fire Department says the owner of the land had been performing a controlled burn and thought the fire was extinguished.  However, a spark reignited it and the blaze quickly spread.  Fox says they were able to get it under control with the help of the Fall River Fire Department.  No structures suffered any damage, and no one was injured.  Fox says they were on the scene for about an hour.  Columbus was also called out earlier in the day for another controlled burn that got out of control.  That one happened in the town of Elba on Oxbow Road just before noon.  Fox says about a half-acre was burned, and they were only on the scene for about 20-minutes.


More Hearings on Collective Bargaining Law


4/1/11 – Another court hearing will be held this morning on the state law that virtually ends collective bargaining by most public employee unions in Wisconsin. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi will decide whether to keep blocking the measure, until she can decide if the Legislature broke the Open Meeting Law when they passed it. Yesterday, the judge struck down a Republican legal maneuver in which the law was implemented despite the court’s restraining order from March 18th. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called Sumi’s ruling “judicial activism at its worst.” He accused her of standing in the way of the G-O-P’s efforts to quote, “improve the economy and create jobs.” Governor Scott Walker said in Milwaukee the union law will not be in effect until the legal issues are sorted out. The state Justice Department said it objected to yesterday’s order, and a higher court will eventually decide everything. The State Supreme Court has already been asked to nullify the restraining order – and two other lawsuits are pending which seek to strike down the union bargaining limits for good. The judge said lawmakers could erase the alleged Open Meeting Law violation by voting a second time on the union bill. But leaders in both houses say they won’t do that. Political observers say the G-O-P doesn’t want to create a repeat of February’s mass demonstrations – and they don’t want to give more ammunition to those trying to recall eight Republican senators who voted in March to pass the measure.


Woman Charged for Making Threats to Legislators


4/1/11 – A Dane County woman has been charged with making e-mail threats against 16 Wisconsin legislators at the height of the debate over the governor’s union bargaining limits. 26-year-old Katherine Windels of Cross Plains faces two felony counts of making bomb scares, and two misdemeanor counts of using computers to threaten bodily harm. Prosecutors said Windels e-mailed Senate Republican Rob Cowles of Green Bay on March 9th, the night the Senate passed the union limits. Later that night, officials said she e-mailed 15 other G-O-P lawmakers, threatening bombings and saying she would quote, “put a nice little bullet in your head.” Windels reportedly told investigators she was upset with what the lawmakers did, but was not planning to carry out the threat. Dane County’s Democratic D-A, Ismael Ozanne, filed the charges just hours after Republican Attorney General J-B Van Hollen’s office issued a rare statement of concern over Ozanne’s lack of action in the case. The Justice Department said it investigated Windels and referred the matter to the D-A for possible charges on March 18th – but five days later, Ozanne raised technical concerns and nothing had been done since. Ozanne denied dragging his feet. He told W-K-O-W T-V in Madison that his office had reviewed the evidence as quickly as possible. Windels is not in custody, but the station said she’ll be served with a warrant today. She could make her first court appearance in late April.


Prosser Re-election Campaign Takes a Hit


4/1/11 – State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser’s re-election campaign took a hit yesterday. Former Governor Patrick Lucey resigned as Prosser’s honorary campaign co-chair – and he threw his support to Prosser’s opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg. The move came just five days before a Supreme Court election that has heated up in the past few weeks, as activists and others have gotten behind Kloppenburg to try and bring the court’s conservative majority to an end. The Democrat Lucey said he pulled out of Prosser’s campaign because he lost his “even-handed impartiality” as he touts his conservative record. Lucey also said Prosser has a quote, “disturbing distemper and lack of civility that does not bode well for the High Court in the face of demands that are sure to be placed on it in these times of great political and legal volatility.” Apparently, he was referring to Prosser’s admission that he told Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson he would “destroy her” when the court split last year on removing Justice Michael Gableman over an ethics violation. Lucey says Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general, has shown “promising judicial temperament and good grace, even in the heat of a fierce campaign.” Prosser said he’s disappointed by the move. And he said his supporters know that impartiality is best defined by his 12 years of experience and not, quote, “six weeks of baseless charges by outside interests.”


Some Questioning Fitzgerald’s Roles in Killing Fox Lake Project


4/1/11 – Critics are raising eyebrows, after Wisconsin’s two top legislative leaders helped kill a proposal to consolidate dairy farms run by the state’s prisoners in Dodge County. The Building Commission recently removed the project from the state’s capital budget. It would have consolidated the dairy operations run by the Waupun and Fox Lake prisons, and added a digester to turn manure into electricity. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald – who both represent that area – said the project might have caused pollution because a waterway on the site flows to nearby Fox Lake. And while neither is a member of the panel, they still got the commission to scrap the measure. Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey of Madison told the Capital Times it’s a good move. But he said the Fitzgeralds’ motivation might have been to win votes at election time. Hulsey said environmentalists would like to see the Fitzgeralds push for similar things across the state, and not just in their own districts. The brothers would not say if their move reflected a larger stance on environmental issues.


Radiations Levels Increased Last Month


4/1/11 – Wisconsin had a tiny increase in radiation last month – and it might have come from the failing nuclear plant in Japan. It does not pose a risk to human health, according to Paul Schmidt of the state Health Services Department. He said the elevated levels were still far below the dangerous category. And it’s still less radiation than what you’d get on an airplane, or regular exposure to the sun. Radiation levels at the State Hygiene Lab took a small spike March 21st and 22nd. But the next day, they were back down to normal.