CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: St. Croix County sheriff trying to figure out who fired gunshots at a semi-truck, and why
Western Wisconsin authorities are trying to figure out who fired gunshots at a semi-truck, and why. The semi was hit nine times last Saturday morning on Interstate-94 near Hammond. No one was hurt. The Saint Croix County sheriff said somebody in an older red-or-maroon car fired a unique style of ten-millimeter bullets. Deputies hope those bullets will help them find the suspect. Shell casings were recovered where the truck driver first heard the shots. The trucker told officers he had just passed a car, and then heard a noise that sounded like somebody was knocking rapidly on the semi cab. He stopped, found a broken window, and then kept going. Another truck flagged him down a short time later, after seeing a fuel leak. Only then did the driver know he had bullet holes in a fuel tank, a tire, the sleeper cab, and other parts of the rig.
Thirty-four more files will be made public this month from the John Doe investigation into the recall elections of Governor Scott Walker and G-O-P state senators. The federal appeals court in Chicago said yesterday it would release 34 electronic files two weeks from today, barring last-minute motions to keep them secret. The release is connected with a federal lawsuit from the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which sought to halt the two-year-old John Doe probe while alleging that prosecutors were violating the group's free speech rights. Milwaukee Federal Judge Rudolph Randa agreed in May, and halted the John Doe. Prosecutors appealed. Last Friday, they again claimed that they were immune from the lawsuit, and therefore the probe should resume. Randa rejected the immunity argument earlier. A number of files from the John Doe were released a few weeks ago. They included a prosecutor's theory that Walker and top Republicans illegally coordinated the 2011-and-'12 recall elections with the help of a dozen outside groups. Walker denies any wrongdoing.
Authorities said the death of a Twin Cities' area man in Wisconsin's deepest inland lake appears to be an accident. The Jackson County sheriff said 50-year-old Jeffrey Carstensen of Maple Grove Minnesota was taking scuba diving lessons on Sunday when the incident occurred in Lake Wazee near Black River Falls. Rescuers said they were called for a medical emergency -- and they tried to resuscitate Carstensen but he died later at a hospital. At last word, an autopsy on the victim was started but was not yet complete. Lake Wazee is located in a former iron mining pit, and it's up to 355-feet deep. It's said to be popular among divers because of its overall depth.
A La Crosse man has admitted to a violent sexual assault of a neighbor. Twenty-two Jarrett Walch pleaded guilty in La Crosse County to strangulation-and-suffocation, and second degree sex assault. Three other felonies, including false imprisonment and burglary, were dropped in a plea deal. Prosecutors said Walch broke into the neighbor's apartment on March 9th and told the woman, "It's your lucky night -- Your door was unlocked." Authorities said Walch sexually-assaulted the woman and squeezed her throat until she could grab a can of pepper spray. He then threw her against a wall, punched her, and ran away. Walch is scheduled to be sentenced October 27th.
Milwaukee Police continue to investigate the shootings of two men in the parking lot of a north side business. A 23-year-old man was murdered, and a 20-year-old man was wounded early yesterday afternoon. Both were taken to a hospital, where the murder victim died and the younger victim was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Police were still looking for suspects at last word.
A father and son who run a large potato farm in northern Wisconsin have been put on probation for the poisoning deaths of two bald eagles and around 70 other wild animals. Alvin Sowinski and his 46-year-old son Paul of Sugar Camp in Oneida County were found to have used the insecticide Carbofuran to kill the wildlife. Both were placed on a year of federal probation. Alvin Sowinski must also spend four months under home confinement, and pay a 30-thousand dollar fine and 100-thousand in restitution. Both Sowinskis agreed to pay the same restitution when they struck a plea deal in February. Paul was fined ten-thousand dollars, and his sporting privileges were taken away for five years. His father lost his hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for seven years. Federal and state officials started investigating the Sowinskis in 2007, when a warden found numerous dead animals on the site. Authorities said at least two bald eagles were poisoned between 2007 and 2010 along with nine coyotes, a bobcat, and dozens of ravens and other birds. Officials also said both Sowinskis allowed hunters and trappers to kill predators, to make deer and grouse hunting better for their friends. It all happened on an eight-thousand acre potato operation in which half was actively being farmed.
An Arizona man has pleaded guilty to killing his ex-girlfriend's fiancee in Superior. Forty-two year old Juan Padilla of Fort Mohave was supposed to go on trial in two weeks in Douglas County. He decided yesterday to plead guilty to his original charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Padilla will be sentenced to life in prison on October 13th, but prosecutors agreed to ask the judge for the possibility of a supervised release after he serves the minimum of 20 years. Padilla admitted shooting 46-year-old Terrence Luukkonen of Duluth to death in May of 2013 outside of Genesis Attachments in Superior. Police said the victim was engaged to a woman who broke off a relationship with Padilla about a month before the slaying. She told officers that Padilla was upset about the break-up, and he mentioned killing her fiancee.
The A-C-L-U says Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage stigmatizes gay couples, and serves no legitimate purpose for the government. That's what the civil liberties' group wrote in a legal brief submitted yesterday to the Seventh U-S Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. That court is being asked to uphold Wisconsin's 2006 gay marriage ban, after Madison District Judge Barbara Crabb struck it down in June. A similar scenario is playing out in Indiana, and the appellate court has combined the two cases with oral arguments set for August 26th. Today, dozens of Indiana police officers, fire-fighters, and E-M-T's will file a brief in support of same-sex marriage. They said the current bans deny gay first responders "the equal dignity and respect they deserve." At least 20 briefs have been filed in the case, many in support of keeping both bans. Wisconsin's attorney general argued that there's no fundamental right to same-sex marriage, and Judge Crabb essentially created a new right. Other gay marriage opponents have cited political theories, the stability of society, and biblical references in their legal briefs. Gay marriage advocates have won legal victories in more than 20 states since last year, when the U-S Supreme Court struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act which barred the federal government from recognizing gay marriages.
Wisconsin's attorney general said a federal judge made some mistakes when he struck down the state's photo I-D law for voting. J-B Van Hollen is appealing Judge Lynn Adelman's finding that the voter law is unconstitutional. In a brief filed yesterday, the attorney general said the judge speculated on a connection between race and the likelihood of having a photo I-D -- even though there was no previous testimony that showed such a correlation. Van Hollen also said the judge acknowledged that more than 90 percent of Wisconsin voters have the photo I-D's they need. Adelman ruled that the 2011 I-D law placed an unfair burden on minority and low-income voters, thus violating the Constitution's equal protection guarantee. The case is now before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Van Hollen also wants the court to re-impose the voter I-D law, to try and use it in November for only the second time since the law was passed. The first was in a February primary in 2012.
Wisconsin traffic deaths were the second-lowest for July since the D-O-T started keeping records in 1937. Officials said 39 people were killed in state crashes last month, 18 fewer than last year at this time, and 19 less than the average for the past five years. Wisconsin traffic deaths for July have ranged from 34 in 1943, to 140 in 1966-and-'71. Officials did not cite a reason for the big drop in last month's fatalities. Bad weather could not be blamed, since it got drier and warmer throughout the state. Tighter law enforcement, road improvements, relatively high gas prices, and lower traffic levels have all been cited by various groups in the recent past. For the year as a whole, 252 people have died in Wisconsin traffic mishaps through July -- 31 fewer than the year before. Starting on August 15th, the D-O-T will begin its annual Labor Day crackdown on drunk driving. The "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign will run through September first.
Four Green Bay police officers are back at work, after they were exposed to chemicals from a fire extinguisher as they were about to make arrests. The officers responded to a report of a possible hostage being held at knife-point yesterday in an apartment building. Officials said one of the people involved sprayed the extinguisher in a hallway just before the police got there. Those officers were taken to a hospital where they were treated and later released. Tenants in the apartment building were evacuated, and the Red Cross was called to provide assistance to them. Police said they arrested four people. At last word, two were referred to Brown County prosecutors for possible charges.