CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Stevens Point man pleads innocent to serving marijuana-laced cookies to former co-workers
A Stevens Point man has pleaded innocent to serving up marijuana-laced cookies to his former co-workers. 21-year-old Darren Blair is charged in Portage County with reckless endangerment, placing foreign objects in edibles, and delivering the main ingredient in marijuana. Prosecutors said Blair brought the cookies to the Charcoal Grill in Plover on March 22nd, and a female co-worker ate two of them before getting sick. She reportedly told officers that Blair asked everyone if they wanted "pot cookies." He was arrested during a traffic stop -- and police said he was carrying a bag chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough, both of which smelled like marijuana. Blair has waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and a pre-trial conference in the case is set for June second. He's free on a 15-hundred dollar bond, and he's still working -- but not at the restaurant.
A jury will hear its first full day of testimony today in the trial of Ashley Baumann, a Merrill woman who allegedly killed two friends in a high-speed drunk driving crash. Authorities said the 26-year-old Baumann was going about 90-miles-an-hour when she rolled her van into a field in June of 2012 in Merrill, killing passengers Misty Glisch of Jessica Hartwig. After a jury was selected yesterday, attorneys presented their opening arguments. The defense claimed that the only survivor of the crash -- 29-year-old Jerrica Woller -- was actually the one behind the wheel. Prosecutors said they have enough evidence from D-N-A, crash reconstruction, photos, and eyewitness testimony to prove that Baumann was the driver. She had a blood alcohol content almost twice the legal limit five hours after the crash. The trial is expected to last about another week in Lincoln County Circuit Court.
A judge in Wausau set bond at a million-dollars yesterday for a man charged with shooting-and-wounding an aunt and uncle. Prosecutors said 21-year-old Kyle Schaefer was leaving a basement when he opened the door and began firing without warning. Three bullets struck Patrick and Sandra Schmitt, who were still at a Wausau hospital at last word. Patrick was in serious but stable condition, and Sandra was listed as good. The shootings occurred Saturday night at a home in the Marathon County town of Maine, northeast of Wausau. Prosecutors say they're not sure about a possible motive. A criminal complaint said Schaefer was grieving the loss of his grandmother to cancer, and had lost a job after having it less than three days. He's charged with two counts of attempted homicide, and three charges of reckless endangerment. Schaefer is due back in court a week from tomorrow, when a judge will decide if there's enough evidence to order a trial.
The murder case that convinced the governor and Legislature to ban "voluntary intoxication" as an allowable defense is having its second trial this week in Door County. Testimony began yesterday in the case of 37-year-old Brian Cooper of Plainfield Illinois. He's charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and sexual assault in the raping and strangling of 21-year-old Alisha Bromfield and her unborn child in August of 2012. Cooper's first trial ended in a hung jury. Authorities said Bromfield had joined Cooper at his sister's wedding in Door County, and she was not interested in rekindling a romance. In February, state Assembly Republican Steve Nass of Whitewater told fellow lawmakers that Cooper claimed to be too drunk to have intended to kill Bromfield and her unborn child. Both houses later approved Nass' bill to ban voluntary intoxication as an acceptable defense in future homicide cases. The governor signed the law in mid-April, about two weeks after the Senate's final passage. Prosecutor Raymond Pelrine told jurors in his opening statement yesterday that Cooper loved Bromfield and "if he couldn't have her, no one could." The defense said the two were a couple at one time, but she got pregnant by another man when she went to college. The re-trial is expected to last most of the week.
Chicago's federal appeals court will hear arguments June second on whether the Milwaukee Archdiocese must open its cemetery trust fund to creditors in the church's bankruptcy case. The creditors -- mainly victims of sex abuse by priests -- say the church should open up the 60-million dollars in its cemetery maintenance budget, as part of the settlements the victims are expected to get. The church says it would violate the freedom-of-religion clause in the First Amendment, and would go against a 1993 federal religious freedom law. Bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley ruled in favor of the creditors, saying there would be no such breach of religious freedom. Milwaukee Federal Judge Rudolph Randa disagreed, and allowed the church to keep its cemetery funds. The creditors say Randa's ruling should be thrown out, in part because he bought plots in the church cemeteries and has numerous relatives buried there. The creditors call that a conflict-of-interest on the judge's part.