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CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Wausau woman pleads guilty to poisoning and stabbing her ex-boyfriend's dog to death

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A Wausau woman has pleaded guilty to poisoning and stabbing her ex-boyfriend's dog to death, in a case that attracted worldwide publicity. Sean Janas, who turns 22 on Saturday, struck a plea deal yesterday that convicts her on two felony charges related to animal mistreatment. A count of resisting an officer was dropped, along with a pair of unrelated retail theft charges. She'll be sentenced March 17th in Marathon County. Janas averted a trial in which a jury would have been shown a diary stating that she hated her ex-boyfriend's German-shepherd Labrador mix. It was also said to describe how the pet could be forced to take bleach and pain pills. The case struck a nerve among animal lovers. About 100 people brought their pets to the courthouse during an early hearing in the case. Social media spread the story, and a prosecutor said he received thousands of e-mails demanding the maximum penalty. The remaining charges carry jail and prison time of 27 months, plus two years of extended supervision.

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Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage will stay in effect for now. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Madison has turned down a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to halt the ban while it's being challenged in the courts. Crabb said the move would have been immediately challenged had she approved it. Instead, she urged the plaintiffs to seek what's called a "swift final determination" of the case, and not litigate the matter in stages. The A-C-L-U and four same-sex couples filed suit a few weeks ago, challenging Wisconsin's 2006 constitutional amendment against gay marriage and civil unions. The plaintiffs also asked the court to throw out a state law which has criminal penalties for Wisconsin same-sex couples who marry elsewhere. 

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A new judge and prosecutor have quickly been named in the case of a Merrill woman accused of trying to hire a hit-man to kill a lawyer who was her fiance. 33-year-old Jessica Strom is charged in Marathon County with conspiracy to commit a homicide. Circuit Judge Michael Moran withdrew because he knows the intended murder victim, who's a lawyer in both Wausau and Merrill. Clark County Circuit Judge Jon Counsell was appointed, but the defense rejected him and used its one allowable substitution request. Taylor County Judge Ann Knox-Bauer was then named to hear the case. Marathon County prosecutors said they knew the intended victim, too, so Langlade County District Attorney Ralph Uttke will be the prosecutor. Authorities said Strom offered sex and a thousand dollars to a male acquaintance if he would shoot her fiance in his Merrill law office and dump his body in Door County. Instead, the man went to police with a recording of a conversation, and related drawings on a napkin.

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Wisconsin attorney general candidate Brad Schimel says he would make big changes in how the Justice Department handles child pornography cases. The Republican D-A from Waukesha County said there needs to be an overhaul of the state's operations, with a renewed focus on preventing sex crimes against children. Last Sunday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cited at least two cases in which tips to the Justice Department were not investigated for a number of years. The department blamed quote, "some level of staff negligence." Two criminal agents were re-assigned, and officials promised to see if other tips were not handled properly. Schimel's office handled one of the cases in question. A plea deal was reached after a defense lawyer claimed that a search warrant in the case was based on information that was more than two years old. Schimel is the only Republican running against three Democrats for the open attorney general's post this fall. He said there should be more resources for investigating child porn cases, plus better training for the 200 law enforcement agencies which are part of the state's task force on Internet crimes against children.

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A 39-year-old Madison man faces possible charges in the murder of a relative. The Dane County medical examiner identified the victim yesterday as 33-year-old Fredrica Hanger of Madison. He was shot to death Monday evening. Police said the two relatives had an ongoing dispute. Details were not disclosed. An investigation continues. The suspect was booked on a possible charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. He was convicted of substantial battery in 2010. Online court records also show nine other convictions against the man -- including several batteries, disorderly conduct, criminal damage, and resisting an officer.

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A public hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday on a complaint filed against Phillips Police Chief David Sonntag. The mayor of the northwest Wisconsin city filed a complaint last month, accusing Sonntag of falsifying legal records and pulling over a motorist illegally. Mayor Charles Peterson said he wants the chief suspended, and then fired after his case is reviewed. W-S-A-W T-V in Wausau said Sonntag was accused of unlawfully jailing a drug suspect for three days, by wrongly claiming that a substance found in a search warrant tested positive to be marijuana. The complaint also alleged that Sonntag claimed mileage for a trip to Madison for a meeting he never attended -- and he improperly used his personal vehicle to stop an erratic driver whom a sheriff's deputy later found was not driving erratically. A police review committee has brought in a Madison lawyer to help the city handle the complaint. Sonntag has been the Phillips chief for nine years. He's not commenting on the complaint for now.

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An 81-year-old Madison man who killed his wife in 1990 is now accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend. Habib Amim was charged yesterday with felony stalking. He was jailed on a 10-thousand-dollar bond. A preliminary hearing was set for next Tuesday in Dane County Circuit Court. Amim pleaded no contest in 1990 to second-degree murder for the beating death of his 44-year-old wife Bonnie in their former apartment. He was paroled in 2002 after serving 12 years in prison for the crime. Prosecutors said an ex-girlfriend broke up with him seven years ago after learning about his past. Officials said he later drove past the woman's home repeatedly, and followed her while he was driving.  

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