CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Wausau man suing his former employer because he had a legal gun in his car while at work
A Wausau man is suing his former employer, saying he was fired because he had a legal gun in his car while at work. The gun rights group Wisconsin Carry Incorporated is covering the upfront legal costs for Ethan Shepherd. He filed a wrongful termination suit in Marathon County Circuit Court against the window-and-door maker Kolbe-and-Kolbe Millwork. Shepherd said he has a state concealed-weapons permit. He pointed out that the concealed carry law prohibits employers from banning permit-holders from storing weapons in their vehicles, even on company property. Shepherd said he was let go in March, after he showed a co-worker the weapon while inside his vehicle. Nic Clark of Wisconsin Carry Incorporated said a Kolbe-and-Kolbe official insisted that Shepherd had the weapon outside the car, which Shepherd and witnesses claimed was false. The company has not commented. Clark tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his group sought an out-of-court settlement in the case, but could not reach one. The lawsuit seeks reinstatement with back pay, his legal costs, and a declaration by the company that it cannot take "negative job action" against concealed-carry permit-holders who keep guns in their vehicles in the company parking lot.
A Milwaukee man had a gun conviction thrown out yesterday, after the State Supreme Court ruled that police should not have stopped his car where his illegal gun was found. The issue was over a defective tail-light -- and the dissenting justices said the 4-to-3 ruling will make it harder for police officers throughout Wisconsin to know when they can legally stop drivers for having a light burned out. Antonio Brown was on extended supervision for armed robbery, when he and a friend were stopped in July of 2010 for having one light burned out in a series of tail-lights. As part of the traffic stop, officers searched the vehicle and found that Brown had a gun he should not have had due to his previous felony conviction. He was sent back to prison for three years. The tail light sequence on Brown's car was a central issue in the case. The law requires tail-lamps to be in "good working order," and the Supreme Court's majority found that the law can be followed even with one light among several burned out. That's because the phrase "good working order" is not legally defined. In a dissent, Justice David Prosser said "good working order" implies that all tail-lights work perfectly. Justices Annette Ziegler and Pat Roggensack also ruled against the car owner.
The nation's attorney general says he'll try to get involved in the current challenge to Wisconsin's photo I-D law for voting. In a recent Justice Department video and an A-B-C News interview, Eric Holder said his agency has already filed suits against the voter I-D laws in Texas and North Carolina. And he expected filing suit against the Wisconsin and Ohio laws. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman struck down the Badger State's voter I-D law earlier this year, saying it violated the U-S Constitution and national Voting Rights Act. Republican State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen has appealed the ruling. Holder said the national Justice Department could either intervene in the suit, or file a friend-of-the-court brief urging the federal appeals court in Chicago to keep Wisconsin's law from being re-instated. Holder recently said the law would "shrink, rather than expand" access to voting. He said it was inconsistent with the principle that all citizens are entitled to equal rights and opportunities. Van Hollen said Holder should focus on immigration reform instead of voter I-D laws. He said Holder wants to throw out a law that ensures "the most basic form of election integrity." Van Hollen and other Republicans say voters need to show I-D's to cut down on vote fraud. Critics say the G-O-P is discouraging voting by groups known to side with Democrats.
A steel-worker will appear in Dane County Circuit Court today, where his homicide case could be settled in a plea deal. Forty-year-old Phillip Byrd of Mansfield Massachusetts is accused killing his ex-girlfriend, 43-year-old Cheryl Gilberg, at her home in Mazomanie in late February. He's currently charged with first-degree intentional homicide. Authorities found Byrd in Janesville a day after the killing, and they arrested him on outstanding warrants. He still has two drug-related charges pending in Rock County. According to prosecutors, Byrd said he had a magical relationship with Gilberg before she put a gun in his mouth -- and a resulting struggle ended in her death. Afterward, Byrd said he thought the woman was still alive, got frightened, and fled. Authorities said Byrd was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine.
A federal judge is giving all sides three more weeks to decide which documents should be kept secret in the now-halted John Doe probe into the state's recall elections. The Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the targets of the John Doe, said it needed more time to pore over thousands of documents in the case. Judge Rudolph Randa had granted a two-week delay earlier. Yesterday, he agreed to move up the deadline again -- this time to August seventh. The Club for Growth, state prosecutors, and two unnamed parties have been trying to decide which documents should be made public. That's after five media groups asked for all the records to come out. Judge Randa halted the John Doe several weeks ago, and prosecutors are still appealing that move. The two-year-old probe was looking into allegations that Governor Scott Walker and other top Republicans illegally coordinated his own recall election campaign and others with a dozen outside groups. Walker has denied wrongdoing, and no one has been charged in the matter.
The only Republican who's running for Wisconsin attorney general says he wants the state Hygiene Lab moved from the U-W to the Justice Department. Brad Schimel said it would help speed up the processing of evidence in traffic cases which involve drivers under the influence of other drugs besides alcohol. Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, said those cases have a large backlog -- and prosecutors must wait 10-to-12 months to get test results. He said authorities cannot wait that long -- and the Justice Department could provide resources to the Hygiene Lab to get the tests completed more quickly. Schimel made his comments during a campaign interview with W-S-A-U Radio in Wausau. He also called heroin abuse the biggest problem law enforcement has seen in 25 years, and the state must continue the fight against it. Schimel hopes to replace fellow Republican Attorney General J-B Van Hollen, who's stepping down after this year. Three Democrats will face each other in an August 12th primary.
A Merrill woman who killed two friends in a drunk driving crash will have her sentencing delayed, because she's about to have surgery. Twenty-six year old Ashley Baumann is having a medical procedure on Monday for an undisclosed issue, and she'll need time to recover before appearing in court. As a result, her August 20th sentencing was pushed back to November fourth. A Lincoln County jury convicted Baumann in May on all seven criminal charges she was facing in the deaths of Misty Glisch and Jessica Hartwig. Authorities said Baumann was driving about 100-miles-an-hour when she flipped her vehicle in the summer of 2012. Her blood alcohol level was almost twice the minimum for drunk driving, about four hours after the crash.
The death of a northern Wisconsin woman remains a mystery, more than two years after she was reported missing. The body of 55-year-old Sandra Schinke was found last September in Vilas County near a snowmobile trail. Officials said she had no trauma or puncture wounds -- and all of her jewelry was in place, thus indicating there was no foul play. Schinke was reported missing in early April of 2012 from the Plum Lake area. All officials could determine is that she died soon after she went missing, based on the condition of her body.