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CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Appeals court upheld Buffalo County's approval for a frac-sand mine

WAUSAU -- A proposed frac-sand mine appears to have the green light in far western Wisconsin, after a state appeals court upheld Buffalo County's approval of the project.  A three-judge panel in Wausau yesterday affirmed a circuit judge's refusal to overturn a conditional use permit for R-and-J Rolling Acres to run a 125-acre silica-sand operation.  Mike O'Connor of rural Gilmanton objected to higher traffic volumes of heavy trucks going to-and-from the mining site.  He also challenged the Buffalo County Board of Adjustment's approval of a revised traffic proposal in 2012, saying it was similar to the one the board originally turned down.  The mine's developer, Glacier Sands, said there were no laws against non-metallic mining in the county's agricultural district -- and there were no laws preventing a revised application from being taken up.  O'Connor's lawyer, John Ekman, tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram he might appeal the matter to the State Supreme Court.  An attorney for the board of adjustment said it acted on additional information from the mine's operator -- and because it addressed previous concerns, he does not believe the Supreme Court would consider an appeal request.

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One of three Democrats running for Wisconsin attorney general says he would restore an environmental advocate's post in the Justice Department.  Jon Richards said yesterday he would bring back the public intervenor's office if he's elected.  The post was created in 1967, as a watchdog to protect people's interests in natural resource matters that include water regulations.  Richards, an Assembly Democrat from Milwaukee, is running against district attorneys Ismael Ozanne of Dane County and Susan Happ of Jefferson County in the August primary.  The winner will face Republican D-A Brad Schimel of Waukesha County in November -- and that winner will replace the retiring J-B Van Hollen.  Ozanne says he would support bringing back the public intervenor.  The other candidates have not commented.  Republicans did away with the post almost two decades ago, saying it caused businesses to be hit with expensive and unfair lawsuits. 

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Two workers at a northeast Wisconsin dairy farm have settled their court cases, after they were caught mistreating cows on a video last year.  39-year-old Lucia Martinez of Wrightstown and 31-year-old Abelardo Jaimes of Menasha both struck plea deals which mostly convicted them of non-criminal ordinance violations instead of misdemeanors.  Both pleaded no contest yesterday in Brown County.  Martinez was told to pay almost 13-hundred dollars in fines and court costs.  Jaimes must pay just over 700-dollars.  The animal rights group Mercy for Animals secretly-recorded video of mistreatment at the Wiese Brothers farm near Greenleaf.  The group posted video last December of employees kicking, whipping, stabbing, and suspending sick and injured cows.  Prosecutors said Martinez and Jaimes worked in an infirmary for sick cows -- and while force was occasionally needed to bring the animals to their feet, the techniques were excessive.  Jaimes still works at the dairy.  Martinez was one of two employees let go.  Two other defendants -- Crescencio Pineda of Menasha and Misael Monge-Minero of Green Bay -- are due in court early next month.

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Bonds are set at 200-thousand dollars for a pair of Kenosha men charged in a shooting death that reportedly stemmed from a drug-related robbery.  22-year-old Joseph-Jamal Brantley and 19-year-old Markese Tibbs appeared in Kenosha County Circuit Court yesterday on charges of reckless homicide, reckless endangerment, and robbery.  Brantley is also charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon in the death of 20-year-old Anthony Edwards.  Police said Edwards was driving a vehicle when he was shot late at night on April 14th, and the vehicle proceeded to hit a house a short time later.  A male juvenile in the vehicle was not hurt.  Media reports said the two defendants had arranged to buy marijuana from Edwards, and then robbed him sometime before the shooting.  An investigation continues.  Brantley and Tibbs are both due in court next Wednesday for preliminary hearings.

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Nobody was hurt after a two-hour hostage situation yesterday in Wittenberg, about 30 miles east of Wausau.  It all started just before 2 p-m, when an armed 28-year-old man from Gillett  walked into a combined McDonald's and Shell convenience store.  Shawano County Sheriff Randy Wright said the man allowed almost everyone to leave the building except for a male McDonald's employee.  The worker was held captive for an hour before law enforcement negotiators convinced the suspect to let the worker go unharmed.  The suspect surrendered about an hour later without incident.  Wright said the man had severe depression symptoms, and he was being checked out at a medical facility.  The suspect did not demand money, and was not related to the hostage.  Nearby schools went under a lock-down, and Highway 45 was closed during the standoff.

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