News – June 3, 2009

State Appealing Ruling on Prisoner Hunger Strike

6/3/09 – The state Corrections Department is appealing a judge’s order to stop force-feeding a prisoner who’s on a hunger strike. Warren Lilly of Milwaukee was convicted of beating his wife in 2002. He started his hunger strike in 2004, and he has been routinely strapped to a chair and force-fed. But last month, Dodge County Circuit Judge Andrew Bissonnette ordered the state to stop doing that. Corrections’ spokesman John Dipko said the state is responsible for maintaining the health-and-safety of its prisoners. Lilly started eating again in March, but he vows to re-start the hunger strike. Dipko said an appeals court granted an emergency stay of the judge’s order, but it told the state to return to the circuit court with its appeal. A hearing is set for June 15th. Frank Van den Bosch of Wisconsin Prison Watch-Dot-Org praised the judge’s ruling. He said Lilly is using his hunger strike to raise political concerns, and he has no desire to die or reduce his prison sentence – which has another nine years to go. Van den Bosch said Lilly has protesting the over-incarceration of minorities, the mentally ill, and those with drug problems.

Parents Who Sold Baby Make Court Appearance

6/3/09 – A Kewaskum mother and father accused of selling their newborn made an initial appearance in Washington County Circuit Court and have been released on a signature bond. Thirty-eight-year-old David Schmidt and 33-year-old Angela Schmidt are charged with party to unauthorized placement for adoption. Prosecutors say they sold their infant girl to a Missouri woman for about $5,500 shortly after Angela Schmidt gave birth at Aurora Medical Center in Hartford Dec. 20, 2004. After learning of the alleged sale, a Hartford police detective spoke to the Schmidts in December of 2008. Detective Randy Abbott says the Schmidts told him the baby was their birth child. The couple waived their right to a timely preliminary hearing. They’re due back in court June 24.

No “Swine Flu” in Columbus

6/3/09 – It turns out the two students who were thought to have the H1N1 virus in the Columbus School District do not. That news came yesterday when Superintendent Mark Jansen received word that the tests on an elementary student and a high school student were negative for the virus, best known as the “Swine Flu”. The students developed “flu like” symptoms last week but the two are already back in class.

Resident Foils Burglary Attempt

6/3/09 – Burglary, theft and a weapons charge was brought yesterday against a 23-year-old Berlin man who was caught red-handed trying to burglarize a Town of Ripon residence last week. The homeowner held Michael Roehling at gunpoint until Fond du LacCounty Sheriff’s deputies arrived last Friday. It was the second time in a little over a week the home had been burglarized. According to the criminal complaint Roehling allegedly took three lawn mowers, $4,100 in cash and coins during the first burglary on May 20th and tried stealing more coins and a handgun last Friday. He’s free on a $1,000 cash bond and has a preliminary hearing on June 12th. (KFIZ)

Lawmakers Get Earful at Hearing on Tougher Drunk Driving Laws

6/3/09 – State lawmakers spent several hours yesterday listening mainly to people who demanded tougher drunk driving laws. The Assembly’s Public Safety Committee held a hearing at State Fair Park near Milwaukee on a package of nine O-W-I reforms. They include mandatory ignition interlocks for all repeat offenders and many first-timers, and making four-time O-W-I a felony if the most recent offense is within five years of the last one. Laurie Wroblewski, who lost her daughter to a five-time drunk driver 20 years ago, said the crackdowns should be stronger. Many agreed. But Democrat Tony Staskunas of West Allis says there are things the Legislature will probably never pass – like making a first-time offense a crime. Also, he said it would cost an extra 375-million-dollars a year in prison costs to make three-time drunk driving a felony – and

that’s not practical with the state’s massive deficit. West Allis tavern owner Joe Janz said tougher punishment won’t stop drunk drivers, many who drive over point-oh-eight are having “innocent fun,” and lawmakers should focus on safe-ride programs instead. That rankled Republican Jim Ott of Mequon – who said bartenders should not over-serve drinkers, and other motorists should not have to pay for their mistakes.

Lake Delton Residents Looking for More Aid

6/3/09 – People whose homes were swept away on Lake Delton last year are now asking for another one-point-three million dollars from the village. The state gave them two-point-three million for condemnation rights, as the lakeshore was re-built following last June’s dramatic washouts from heavy rains. Now, a claim to the village asks for the difference between what the state paid, and what the owners called their fair market values. Five homes and nine lots were destroyed a year ago next Tuesday, when a breach in an earthen bank created a channel – and the homes floated away down the Wisconsin River. The Village of Lake Delton denies negligence. If it denies the new damage claim, the landowners can file a lawsuit.

Oil Tax May Be Passed onto Consumer

6/3/09 – Wisconsin’s proposed tax on oil revenues might be passed on to consumers after all. State Assembly Democrats are thinking about dropping the idea of making the oil companies cut into their profits, and not raise prices to cover the new tax. Madison Democrat Mark Pocan, who co-chairs the Joint Finance Committee, is still not sure that’s constitutional – even though his panel endorsed it last Friday. He said yesterday he wants to make sure the oil tax stays, and provides the money for new roads that it needs to. There’s been talk of a lawsuit by big oil if the tax passes and they can’t pass it on – and the state could end up spending hundreds of millions in legal fees to defend it.

Possible Cougar in Durand

6/3/09 – A rare cougar might have been roaming on a large dairy farm near Durand. Marty Weiss said his son found foot-prints in wet, muddy soil on their farm last Wednesday – and those tracks appeared to be from a cougar. State D-N-R biologist Jess Carstens said the prints appeared to be those from a cat with the size of a cougar. Mountain lions were not seen for over a century in Wisconsin until two recent incidents over the past year-and-a-half. One cougar left tracks near Milton early last year, and was later killed by police in Chicago. The second cougar was photographed in March in a tree in Washburn County near Spooner. The D-N-R attempted to tranquilize the animal to put a tracking device on it – but the cougar ran off, and was never seen after that. Young male cougars are said to be migrating eastward in the Upper Midwest from a population in South Dakota’s Black Hills.