CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Frederic woman charged with vehicular homicide after killing the Milltown deputy fire chief
A northwest Wisconsin woman is due in court July 21st, after she was accused of killing the deputy fire chief of Milltown while driving drunk. Jeanne Fisher of Frederic was charged on June 30th -- her 33rd birthday -- with homicide by drunk driving, and with a prohibited blood alcohol level. Both counts are felonies. Polk County prosecutors filed them more than five months after the crash which killed 34-year-old Chad Hansen. Authorities said Hansen was walking on Highway 35 during blizzard conditions last January when a car hit him. Fisher told officers she had four drinks and a shot of liquor at a bar in Luck, and she was driving to another tavern when she struck Hansen. Officials said her blood alcohol level was point-one-three-six, over one-and-a-half times the allowable limit for drunk driving. Hansen was on the Milltown Fire Department since 1997, and became the deputy chief a year-and-a-half ago. He also served as a street employee for the village.
We could soon learn a little bit more about the state's John Doe investigation into the recall elections against Governor Scott Walker and G-O-P senators. Yesterday, federal appeals Judge Diane Wood ordered the release of about 14 pages of documents that the Wisconsin Club for Growth wanted to keep secret. It's not known when the records will come out -- or what they might disclose. They concern the group's lawsuit which sought to strike down the John Doe probe for violating the group's free-speech rights. Milwaukee District Judge Rudolph Randa said he agreed with the group, and he halted the probe twice this spring. State prosecutors continue to appeal the latest move. Over 250 pages of documents have already been released from the John Doe -- including a prosecutor's theory that Walker and two G-O-P operatives illegally coordinated with a dozen conservative groups to run the recall campaigns as a joint effort. Walker strongly denies it, and the prosecutor later clarified it was nothing more than conjecture.
A 12-year-old Waukesha girl will not have to undergo a third mental exam, before she enters a plea to charges that she helped stab a classmate 19 times. Circuit Judge Michael Bohren has halted an order he issued last week for a state exam that's designed to determine whether Morgan Geyser could raise a credible insanity defense. Bohren approved the state's request for such an exam last Thursday, after two more limited exams showed that she was not mentally competent to stand trial. The more formal state exam normally occurs after a criminal defendant pleads insanity. Therefore, defense lawyer Anthony Cotton said the order for the exam came too early, since no pleas have been entered yet. Cotton also said the exam might force Geyser to give details that could eventually be used against her, thus violating her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Geyser and 12-year-old Anissa Weyer are charged as adults in the May 30th stabbing of a 12-year-old classmate. The defendants told police they did it to honor of the fictional horror character Slender Man. They're due back in court August first. The stabbing victim continues to recover at home.
A search for a missing boater is in its third day on Lake Winneconne, northwest of Oshkosh. Winnebago County authorities said 52-year-old Roger Inderdahl of Weyauwega went missing on Monday while he was fishing on the lake. Witnesses called 9-1-1 after seeing his empty boat go around in circles on the lake. Private boaters have been helping authorities with the search. It was suspended yesterday due to high winds.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to decide today whether criminal defendants had their rights violated when the preliminary hearing process was streamlined. Majority Republicans passed a law in 2012 to allow hearsay testimony during an early stage of a felony case, when a judge decides if there's enough evidence to order a trial. Now, the only witnesses who testify at prelims are often police officers who summarize their evidence. Three defendants from Kenosha and Walworth counties took the change to court, saying it violates their right to due process and the right to confront their accusers. It's not often when judges throw out charges at the preliminary hearing stage. As a result, the new law's supporters said prelims are generally formalities, and their measure eliminated the need for crime victims to testify. Because the vast majority of cases are settled with plea bargains, crime victims and-or their relatives generally don't get heard in court until defendants are sentenced.
Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner is so fed up with the A-T-F, he's drafting a bill to eliminate it. The Menomonee Falls Republican says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives keeps searching for a mission, while it's plagued by what he calls "high-profile blunders." A new report by the General Accounting Office said the 46-year-old A-T-F keeps trying to re-define itself, as it struggles with high employee turnover and problems keeping track of its criminal investigations. The agency is not commenting for now. In Milwaukee, there's been heavy criticism of the A-T-F in the wake of a botched undercover storefront operation that was supposed to get guns off the streets -- but instead resulted in a burglary at the storefront, the loss of critical documents, and charges against the wrong targets. Sensenbrenner says other police operations in the Justice Department can pick up the A-T-F's duties. His new effort to eliminate the A-T-F comes 21 years after a similar proposal failed to pass.
A man who co-founded three self-help companies in Madison has been sentenced to a year in prison for not filing federal income tax returns. Forty-two year old Eric Plantenberg of Bend Oregon said he made an "epic mistake" when he failed to pay taxes from 2006-through-'08. That was when he co-owned Personal Freedom Development, I-Kinetic, and Freedom Professional Services, all of Madison. Plantenberg failed to pay taxes on one-point-three million dollars he made during the three-year period. His attorney asked for probation, but Milwaukee Federal Judge Lynn Adelman said Plantenberg needed to go to prison to discourage others from running tax scams. Prosecutors said he shuffled money from a dozen accounts to avoid paying taxes. His attorney said Plantenberg could owe almost a-million dollars in back taxes, penalties, and interest once his past-due returns are filed. The Wisconsin State Journal says Plantenberg and his wife are selling a beverage company in Oregon to help pay what he owes.
Somebody observed the nation's birthday by stealing dozens of military flag holders from veterans' graves at a cemetery in Beaver Dam. Ross Kottke, who manages the Oakwood Cemetery, tells the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen it's "disgusting" that someone would rob the veterans who were honored. Authorities said the bronze markers were stolen from the graves of Korean War veterans and those who served in both World Wars. The markers were stolen sometime during the July Fourth weekend -- and the small flags on those holders were left behind.
A Milwaukee man will be sentenced today, after he admitted taking part in a dog-fighting ring. Twenty-four year old Thomas Zollicoffer struck a plea deal on Monday that convicted him of two felonies -- instigating animal fights, and training animals for those events. Two lesser felony counts were dropped. Zollicoffer was among 13 people arrested in April, as part of what investigators called a dog-fighting ring throughout Milwaukee County. Authorities recovered 22 living dogs, and the corpse of a dog in a suspect's back yard.