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STATE CRIME AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: 24 more citations issued Thursday against Solidarity Singers

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State Capitol Police issued 24 more citations yesterday, in the second week of a crackdown on a group that refuses to get a state permit for its anti-Walker sing-alongs. Twenty-three tickets were given to members of the Solidarity Singers for not having permits. Two people were cited twice, and one was ticketed for obstructing officers. The group has held almost daily sing-alongs since the massive pro-union protests at the State Capitol in 2011. Its leaders say they shouldn’t have to get a permit to carry out their free-speech rights. Last month, Federal Judge William Conley upheld most of the Walker administration’s permit policy. The crackdown on the Solidarity Singers began soon after that, with over 140 tickets issued in all. The judge said it’s okay to require permits for groups of 20-or-more. The original Walker policy required permits for groups of four-or-more. 

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The nation’s governors will start meeting in Milwaukee today, amid questions about whether they can keep their conservative dominance after next fall’s elections. Thirty of the nation’s 50 governors are Republicans. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker was among 16 first-time G-O-P state leaders elected in 2010 – and he’s among eight in states that elected Democrat Barack Obama for president in both 2008-and-2012. Those eight have spread conservative principles beyond the normal G-O-P base of states, with varying degrees of success. Four of those governors have job approval ratings of 40-percent or less, and five national political surveys rate them as among the most vulnerable next fall. Those four are Rick Snyder of Michigan, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Paul LePage of Maine, and Rick Scott of Florida. Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich survived rocky starts to emerge as possible favorites in their contests next year. University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that many first-time G-O-P governors are responding to different coalitions than the ones which normally dominate their states – and those states may not be as conservative as they seem. Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report said many of the new governors inherited lots of problems. She said they created bold moves to solve them – and in the process, some created their own drama. 

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A Waukesha man was sentenced to a life prison term yesterday, for the murder and robbery of a convenience store clerk 14 months ago. A judge allowed 20-year-old Billy Ingram to be eligible for a supervised release in 2071, if he lives that long. He would be 78 then. Prosecutors said Ingram robbed the Broadway Petro Mart in Waukesha of a-thousand dollars in cash and merchandise in May of 2012, and then shot 56-year-old store clerk Nayyer Rana to death. An overnight customer later discovered Rana’s body and called 9-1-1. Ingram was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, forcible armed robbery, marijuana possession, and illegally having a firearm as a convicted felon. 

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A former payroll specialist at a southeast Wisconsin health care system has been arrested for stealing over a-million-dollars in an elaborate payroll scheme. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare said it uncovered a system in which a 49-year-old woman manipulated payroll accounts of hundreds of employees. Glendale Police arrested the woman last night. Officers continue to investigate. They have not recommended possible charges to prosecutors yet. Officials said Wheaton Franciscan lost the money, but there might be a tax impact on almost 850 present and former workers who had their payroll accounts manipulated. The health system said it notified those people this week, and it fired the suspect. Anne Ballentine of Wheaton Franciscan said the scheme began in 2004 and ran for nine years. About 850-thousand-dollars was stolen directly from the health care system. Extra taxes were paid on that money, bringing the total loss to one-point-one million. Officials said the former payroll specialist added false hours to random co-workers, put those wages into her bank account, and then deleted the work records. 

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A public hearing yesterday came down to a debate over whether it’s worth millions of dollars to send more drunk drivers to prison for longer sentences. The state Assembly’s judiciary committee heard emotional testimony on three bills from Mequon Republican Jim Ott. They would make third-and-fourth-time O-W-I a felony, require a minimum six-month jail term for injuring others while driving drunk, and create a mandatory 10-year term for homicide by drunk driving. Paul Jenkins told lawmakers he’s had no closure, after his relative Jennifer Bukosky died in 2008. The popular Oconomowoc teacher and two of her children died after her car was rear-ended by a doctor who was high on prescription drugs with three O-W-I convictions. Dawn Johnson of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said Wisconsin laws are quote, “lacking.” Committee members were sympathetic, but were concerned about the added costs – up to 220-million dollars a year just to send third-and-fourth time offenders to prison, plus another 230-million to build extra prison space. Counties’ association lobbyist David Callender said it would cost counties an extra 50-dollars a day to jail each new offender – and they don’t have the budgets for it. He said counties would not oppose the bill if the state would pick up the tab. Ott said he couldn’t imagine telling a victim’s family quote, “It’s going to cost too much, so we are going to have to give them only two years in prison.” He said Wisconsin does not take drunk driving seriously enough. 

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Wisconsin’s workforce development secretary has been elected first vice-president of the National Association of Governmental Labor Officials. Reggie Newson was chosen at the group’s annual meeting in Boston. He was the group’s secretary-treasurer since April. Newson has headed Wisconsin’s labor department since October of 2011. 

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A central Wisconsin man pleaded guilty yesterday to causing the death of a bicyclist. 44-year-old Tracy Kruzicki of Mosinee struck a plea deal and avoided a trial on a Marathon County charge of causing death while driving with a suspended license. He admitted striking 44-year-old bicyclist Tammy Goss with his car in May of 2012 on Highway Double-“K” near Mosinee. Kruzicki will be sentenced October seventh. The plea deal would apparently give him some kind of a break on his prison term, but attorneys would not say what they had in mind. The defense lawyer said he tried to avoid a felony conviction for his client, but could not. The conviction carries a possible six years in prison. Gass lost her previous husband in a bicycle crash in 2008, close to where she was killed. Gregg Bednorski died after his bike slammed into a parked car on Double-“K,” the same road where Gass was killed. 

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Oak Creek native Justin Slaby spent two-and-a-half hours telling a federal jury that he was discriminated against from the first day he applied to become an FBI agent. The 30-year-old Slaby is a former Army Ranger who lost his left hand while training for his fourth tour-of-duty in the war-on-terror. He applied to become a special agent, and was dismissed from a training academy in 2011 after instructors said he could not properly use his prosthetic left hand to maneuver a weapon. Slaby insists the agency prejudged and never really gave him an opportunity. The FBI did put him on a hostage rescue team, but he said he’s still frustrated because it does not reflect his real goals. Slaby’s wife Jennifer said his rejection was quite a blow to their family. She said her husband was the first disabled person to walk through the training academy door and quote, “He won’t be the last.” The testimony came on the fourth day of Slaby’s discrimination trial in federal court in Alexandria Virginia. The government will start making its case on Monday. The case is expected to go to the jury early next week. 

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Investigators said a former Wisconsin Rapids police lieutenant portrayed himself as a girl online, to try and get nude photos of teenage boys for his sexual pleasure. 41-year-old Steven Lowe appeared in Wood County Circuit Court yesterday, where a judge ordered a 20-thousand dollar bond. Rapids Police and the State Justice Department continue to investigate. Officials say charges could be filed as early as today for child exploitation and enticement, and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. Lowe was put on administrative leave yesterday, and he resigned before the day was done. For now, the judge and the prosecutor are coming from Sauk County to avoid possible conflicts of interest. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune quoted court documents as saying that Lowe allegedly portrayed himself as a 15-year-old girl named Abby, asking teen boys online for their nude photos. The paper said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children caught wind of the matter, and notified the state Justice Department which served a warrant at Lowe’s home on Wednesday. While officials were there, a special agent reportedly had several phone conversations with Lowe. 

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Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union says it’s making its case at the local level, instead of spending millions to lobby state legislators for what they want. A new state report showed that the WEAC teachers’ union spent 84-thousand dollars to lobby lawmakers during the first six months of this year, when they were acting on the new state budget. That’s a pittance, compared to the two-point-one million dollars WEAC spent on lobbying in the first half of 2011, during the last budget period. At that time, the union was fighting to keep the collective bargaining privileges they eventually lost under Act-10. Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend said public unions didn’t have much to lobby for this year, since the near-elimination of bargaining no longer required bills to tweak the process. WEAC, which lost a-third of its teachers after Act-10 was passed, says it’s now working with community coalitions to promote their cause. Other public unions have also cut their lobbying expenses dramatically. That leaves business groups as the biggest spenders. The Wisconsin Insurance Alliance spent the most to lobby lawmakers in the first half of this year – around 357-thousand dollars.

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Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin will become the new chair of the National Governors Association on Sunday. She’ll take over the top spot during the group’s annual meeting in Milwaukee, where she’s expected to announce her initiatives for the coming year. Fallin, a Republican, will replace Delaware’s Jack Markell as the head of the organization. A half-dozen members of Fallin’s staff have joined her in Milwaukee. They look forward to learning more about how other states handle major issues like health-care, the economy, transportation, and homeland security. 

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Innocent pleas have been entered for a former Mount Horeb police lieutenant charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old runaway boy who moved into his apartment. Dane County Circuit Judge Ellen Berz entered the pleas yesterday to an amended complaint against 44-year-old Dennis Jenks of Madison. Online court records show that Jenks is charged with 34 felonies for the molesting of a child originally from Beloit. The charges include repeated child sexual assault, eight counts of child sexploitation, and 24 counts of possessing child pornography. A pre-trial hearing in Jenks’ case is set for September 27th. 48-year-old James Gillespie, now of Mackinac Island Michigan, is scheduled to be sentenced October fourth for sexually assaulting the same youngster. Gillespie pleaded no contest last month. 

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts with his wife and two daughters. 
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