CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Target files a legal brief in support of same-sex marriages in Wisconsin
The Target department store chain has filed a legal brief in support of same-sex marriages in Wisconsin. That's rare, since large companies normally shy away from hot-button political issues so they don't turn off customers. However, as polls show growing support for gay marriage, several large U-S companies have publicly defended the practice -- both in legal briefs, and in referendums. Target filed its brief in the federal appeals court in Chicago, which is considering the constitutionality of gay marriage bans passed in both Wisconsin and Indiana. Federal judges overturned those bans, and both states filed appeals. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune said virtually of Minnesota's biggest businesses took no stance on a state referendum from 2012 to ban same-sex marriages. The referendum failed, and lawmakers approved the gay unions last year.
Wisconsin's attorney general says there's only "one remaining obstacle" to making people show photo I-D's to vote in November. J-B Van Hollen asked the federal appeals court in Chicago yesterday to lift an injunction which prevents the voter I-D law from going back into place, while the court considers the merits of the law itself. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman struck down the Republican voting requirement earlier this year, saying it goes against the federal Voting Rights Act by discouraging young and low-income people from voting. The State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of the photo I-D mandate -- and Van Hollen says that should be enough to put it back in place for November. However, the Supreme Court told the state it would have to come up with new rules, to make sure voters can get free I-D's without having to pay for other documents which confirm their identities -- like copies of birth certificates. Van Hollen says his Justice Department and the D-O-T are working on that. On Monday, Van Hollen filed a legal brief to appeal Adelman's ruling, saying the judge made several errors in his conclusion.
Two police officers will receive the Congressional Badge of Bravery today, for their actions at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek when six worshippers were killed. Oak Creek Lieutenant Brian Murphy and patrolman Sam Lenda will get one of the highest commendations for law enforcement. The badge recognizes "exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty." Murphy and Lenda were among eight officers honored at the White House last year for their service at the Sikh Temple massacre. Murphy was the first officer to arrive two years ago yesterday, when he suffered over a dozen wounds in a gunfight with Wade Michael Page. Lenda shot and wounded Page just as the white supremacist gunman had killed himself. Today's ceremony will wrap up five days of events involving the second anniversary of the Sikh Temple shootings. Temple and community members gathered there last night for a remembrance ceremony.
Prosecutors now say Steven Zelich killed two women during "breath play" -- or erotic asphyxiation -- before putting their bodies in suitcases and dumping them. Zelich, a former West Allis police officer, was charged yesterday in Kenosha County with first-degree intentional homicide in the 2012 death of 19-year-old Jenny Gamez of Cottage Grove Oregon. Zelich told officers that Gamez and the other victim -- Laura Simonson of Minnesota -- met him voluntarily at separate hotels, and they consented to their encounters. In the Gamez case, officials said Zelich blindfolded, handcuffed, and gagged her to restrict her breathing until things got out of control -- and she choked to death. Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf said Zelich might call it accidental, but the D-A calls it murder. The 52-year-old Zelich was put under a two-million-dollar bond, on top of the one-million-dollar bond he has in Walworth County. He's charged there with two counts of hiding a corpse, after the suitcases with both women's bodies were found June 5th along a grassy rural road near Lake Geneva. Zelich also faces a possible homicide charge in Minnesota, but it has not been filed yet. He's due back in Kenosha County Circuit Court a week from Friday for a preliminary hearing.
An 18-year-old Kenosha man is recovering, after he fled from police and then shot himself. It happened yesterday, after officers were called to a disorderly conduct complaint. Officials said the man pulled a gun from his waist-band as soon as police arrived. He pointed the gun at an officer, and ran off while the officer took cover. Police said the man then hid himself in a basement, where officers heard a gunshot as they tried to get him to surrender. They found him on the basement stairs with a non-life-threatening wound under his chin. The man was taken to a hospital for treatment. It's not clear what charges he might face.
New toxicology test results show that a Wausau area man was drunk when he drove into a river and died. Everest Metro Police said 27-year-old Matthew Chaignot of Rothschild died from drowning -- and his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at point-16. Chief Wally Sparks said both alcohol and speed were contributing factors in the crash, in which Chaignot drove into the Eau Claire River off a bridge in Schofield on June 17th. Authorities spent the better part of a day getting the victim and his vehicle out of the water. At last word, officials were still investigating whether Chaignot was involved in a hit-and-run crash a short time before his death.
A public school teacher in Wausau has resigned, after he and six others were ticketed under a new city ordinance aimed at discouraging prostitution. Police said the men were caught in an online sting last month, in which officers posed as prostitutes to catch those who were seeking their business. The new ordinance allows police to give out two-thousand-dollar tickets, instead of filing criminal charges. Officials did not publicly identify the men. One of them wrote a letter of resignation to the Wausau School District yesterday, and the School Board will act on it next Monday. Superintendent Kathleen Williams said the safety of students was not put at risk by the teacher.
A pedestrian was killed in Milwaukee early this morning, after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Police said the driver ran from the crash scene. Other details were not immediately released.