Evening State News Briefs: Snow causes accidents in eastern Wisconsin
This morning's snow in much of Wisconsin may have caused at least one death.
Winnebago County sheriff's deputies are trying to determine if icy roads caused a crash that killed a motorist about 6:30 a-m on Highway 26 southwest of Oshkosh. Authorities said a box truck was going north when it struck an oncoming car. The car driver died at the scene. The truck driver was hurt but not hospitalized.
Much of northern and eastern Wisconsin had 2-to-4 inches of snow this morning, and most of the southwest had an inch or less. Gile, along Lake Superior in Iron County, had seven inches - and more was expected in that region this afternoon and tonight. Snow has stopped falling in most other areas - and sub-zero temperatures with strong wind chills are predicted for tonight throughout the Badger State, with lows of 3-to-12-below zero.
Madison police say three strong-armed robberies near the University of Wisconsin campus last night appear to be related. All three incidents involved men stealing electronic equipment from people who were walking down the street. The first incident happened at about 9:40 p.m. in the 400 block of West Dayton when a woman had her cell phone snatched from her hands. The second happened at about 11 p.m. in the 13 hundred block of Milton. A man who had been walking there told police a car stopped, two men jumped out and one held him while the second took his cell phone and another electronic device. The third incident happened just a few minutes later when a man was walking past a car. He told police two men got out, with one throwing him to the ground and the second grabbing his laptop computer. No injuries were reported and none of the three victims said they had seen a weapon.
The Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant has been allowed to shut down permanently in the next few months, after it was found that the Midwest power grid will not lose reliability as a result. Dominion Resources said last fall it would shut down the plant as soon as April, because it could not find a buyer - and it could not reach a new agreement with utilities to buy power. That's because it's cheaper for utilities to buy wholesale power made from natural gas than from nuclear power. Before it could close, the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator had to determine that the regional power grid would not be less reliable due to the shutdown. The Kewaunee plant has been operating since 1974. Dominion Resources of Virginia bought it in 2005. The nearby Point Beach Nuclear Plant at Two Rivers will keep operating. It has utility power purchase agreements that run through the early 2030's, when that plant's operating license is due to expire.
A special prosecutor says he will not seek felony charges against any Milwaukee police officers for the 2011 death of Derek Williams. He died in police custody after being arrested for a street robbery. A police video showed that he had trouble breathing, and collapsed a number of minutes after being put in the squad car. Special prosecutor John Franke has been questioning witnesses for a week in front of an inquest jury. He said earlier that might have the jury consider felony charges such as reckless homicide. But Franke said the medical evidence is too complex, and there's too much uncertainty of how Williams died, in order to justify felony charges. Instead, he asked the jury today to consider misdemeanor counts of failure to render aid by law enforcement. Milwaukee officer Patrick Coe and Sergeant Robert Thiel invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. They were later granted immunity from prosecution, and both took the stand again today. Coe offered nothing new. Thiel said Williams appeared to be in distress when he was lying on the ground before being placed in the squad car - and Thiel said he was willing to medical help if the suspected had needed it. Thiel said he never heard Williams complain that he couldn't breathe. Coe said Williams mentioned it once.
For the second time in a row, total spending on Wisconsin legislative elections dropped last year. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said today that the candidates, four legislative fund-raising committees, and special interests spent a combined $16.5 million dollars last year. That's 14-percent less than the $19.25 million spent in the previous contests for Assembly and Senate in 2010. Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe said last year's recall elections were probably why spending was down for the fall statehouse races. Democrats forced Republican Governor Scott Walker and five other GOP officials into expensive recalls for their votes in favor of virtually eliminating most public union bargaining. Last fall's spending was also down 18-percent from the record 20-and-a-quarter million dollars spent on Assembly and Senate races for the fall of 2008.
Only a handful of people voted in Sun Prairie soon after the polls opened this morning. In many parts of Wisconsin, the only item on the ballot is a primary for the State Supreme Court. There's also a five-way Republican contest for a vacant state Assembly seat that serves part of Waukesha County, and the winner has no official Democratic opposition on the ballot in April. In Milwaukee County, former state Assembly Democrat Tony Staskunas is one of three candidates for a county board seat. Actually, there are two Milwaukee County Board primaries to replace supervisors who were elected to the Legislature - Joe Sanfelippo and Nikiya Harris. State officials expect less than 10-percent of voters to turn out today. In Marshfield, city clerk Deb Hall predicts a 15-percent turnout, with an eight-way primary for two school board seats. Today's contest is also giving Marshfield its first chance to use new tabulating machines, which make it easier to detect errors made by voters - and give them a chance to make corrections. Officials had planned to start using the machines in 2012. But with six elections throughout the year, Hall said there was not much time to train poll workers - and they didn't want the machines going down on Election Day.
A federal court hearing is set for Thursday, to determine if a high-ranking official in India was properly served with a lawsuit when he paid a visit to Oak Creek. Parkash Singh Badal claimed he was out shopping, when a human rights group tried to serve him with a federal U-S lawsuit. And his lawyer said Badal was not served properly. The "Sikhs for Justice" group wants a U.S. court to decide whether Badal, the chief minister of India's state of Punjab, oversaw the tortures of Sikhs in India. Badal appeared in the Milwaukee area last August for a private wedding. And he met with survivors of the Sikh Temple massacre in Oak Creek. Group members took the opportunity to serve Badal with a lawsuit when he was at Oak Creek High School - and Badal's lawyers plan to present diplomatic testimony to prove that he was not served correctly. The 30-page suit accused Badal of controlling law enforcement officials who allegedly inflicted inhumane treatment on thousands of people. It also said there are no adequate remedies for the plaintiffs to win a court action in India. Milwaukee Federal Judge Rudolph Randa withdrew from the case - and Judge Lynn Adelman is preparing to hear the arguments this week.
A garage exploded overnight in central Wisconsin - and authorities said a propane leak is apparently why. The blast happened about 1:50 this morning at a home south of Wautoma on Highway 73 in the Waushara County township of Marion. Sheriff's deputies said the propane appears to have ignited after leaking in a basement under the garage. Officials said the garage door was blown onto the roadway, where it was hit by a vehicle. The residents were inside the house at the time, and they escaped injury. The incident remains under investigation.