CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Wausau man in jail under a $1M bond for shooting his aunt and uncle
A Wausau man has pleaded innocent to shooting-and-wounding an aunt and uncle 12 days ago. 21-year-old Kyle Schaefer waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday, and was arraigned on a count of attempted homicide and three charges of reckless endangerment. Investigators say they still don't know why the incident happened. Officials said Schaefer brought a .22-caliber rifle upstairs from a basement, and shot Patrick and Sandra Schmitt while they were playing cards with friends at the couple's home near Wausau. Witnesses told officers that Schaefer was distraught over losing his job and the recent death of a grandmother, but it's not known whether those events triggered the shootings. Both victims have since been released from a Wausau hospital. Pre-trial requests will be discussed at a conference on June 13th. Schaefer remains in the Marathon County Jail under a one-million-dollar bond.
Multiple media reports now say that a federal judge has NOT approved the release of over 100 documents related to the John Doe probe into the state's recall campaigns. The Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel both clarified this morning that Judge Rudolph Randa has not signed an order to unseal records in the case. An earlier media report stated that Randa issued the order last night -- after prosecutors asked the judge to unseal records in a federal civil rights lawsuit. The Wisconsin Club for Growth filed the suit, alleging that prosecutors violated free speech rights by forcing the group to remain silent during this key election year. Prosecutors have been seeking evidence of alleged illegal coordination between outside groups, the Walker campaign, and other Republican candidates in the state's recall elections in 2011-and-'12. The Journal Sentinel said two prosecutors filed requests yesterday with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, asking that the John Doe be re-instated -- and that Randa not issue any other orders when their appeals are being considered. Randa twice shut down the Doe probe last week. Prosecutors agreed with media groups that records in the case should be made public, saying that the main points of the probe have already come out. The Club for Growth agreed that most -- but not all -- of the documents in its case should be made public. But again, that has not actually happened yet.
A trial date of June 25th has been set for a northeast Wisconsin woman accused of killing a toddler while backing out of a driveway. Forest County prosecutors said Shanice Stands of Crandon was high on marijuana when her vehicle struck a three-year-old boy in September of 2010. He died later that night at a Rhinelander hospital. Stands was 17 at the time, and authorities said she did have a driver's license -- only a learner's permit issued in neighboring Minnesota. She's now 21, and she's free on a signature bond awaiting a three-day trial on two felony counts of causing death by negligent driving, and while using controlled substances. Online court records show that Stands also has a July 24th trial date on separate Forest County charges of second-time O-W-I, possession of marijuana, and two other drug-related counts. Stands also has a pre-trial conference set for June 25th on four felony bail jumping charges.
Former state Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer is due in court this morning on charges that he groped a woman's breasts in 2011. A Waukesha County judge will determine if there's enough evidence to send the 49-year-old Kramer to trial on two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault. If he's bound over, his attorney has said that Kramer would plead innocent. Normally, that would happen later during an arraignment. Kramer was charged in March, a few weeks after reports that he groped a woman and sexually harassed another in February on a G-O-P fund-raising trip to Washington. After that came out, an ex-congressional staffer said Kramer groped her and asked for sex following a Republican event in Muskego. That's the case for which he's being charged. Kramer told police he kissed the woman good-night, but denied groping her. Assembly Republicans removed Kramer as the majority leader of the lower house after reports of the February incident. He's not running for re-election this fall after eight years in the Assembly -- but Kramer rejected calls by lawmakers of both parties to step down before his current term ends in early January.
A federal appeals court has struck down much of Wisconsin's campaign finance law. But the impact is not as drastic as it sounds, because the state had agreed in 2010 to stop enforcing major campaign ad regulations anyway. Yesterday's ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Right-to-Life, which challenged limits on so-called "issue ads" -- the ones which highlight a candidate's position on issues but does not tell people who to vote for-or-against. The Club for Growth and One Wisconsin Now also challenged the rules -- and in those cases, the Government Accountability Board had agreed not to enforce key parts of them. That included a requirement to say who put up the money for the ads in many cases. Appellate Judge Diane Sykes said Wisconsin's laws are hard to interpret without having a legal background in campaign finance. Sykes said the state laws had not kept up with U-S Supreme Court decisions in recent years which limited the government's power to regulate campaign ads. Among other things, the appellate court ruling said Wisconsin's long-time ban on political spending by corporations was unconstitutional. That, too, had not been enforced since 2010 after a similar national ban was struck down by the justices in Washington.
The widow of an Illinois state trooper killed when his squad car was hit by a Wisconsin trucker has won an 11-million dollar settlement. Elizabeth Sauter filed a wrongful death suit against truck driver Andrew Bokelman of Lomira, and the companies he was working for at the time. The woman's husband, trooper James Sauter, was killed in March of last year. Prosecutors said the 26-year-old Bokelman fell asleep behind the wheel on the Interstate-294 tollway near Chicago -- and the rig hit Sauter's patrol car and pushed it 540-feet along a median in the center. Officials said he had worked a 12-hour shift that day, and was on the road for two more hours when the crash occurred. He was driving a trailer full of household goods to Kentucky. Bokelman was charged last November with three felonies for violating safety rules designed to keep tired truckers off the road. Yesterday, a judge approved a civil settlement Sauter's wife reached with Bokelman, United Van Lines, Barrett Moving-and-Storage, and Unigroup Incorporated.