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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Milwaukee policeman sentenced to two years in jail for misconduct

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MILWAUKEE - A former Milwaukee police officer has been sentence to more than two years in prison for allegedly conducting body cavity and strip searches illegally.

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Michael Vagnini pleaded no contest to four felonies and misdemeanors back in April. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn issued a statement saying officers cannot break the law in the name of enforcing it. Three other officers who were charged with Vagnini are awaiting their trials.

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A four hour standoff ended peacefully yesterday afternoon in Milwaukee County. WTMJ-TV reports two people were taken in custody after a domestic abuse call lead to several police and Milwaukee County SWAT teams to respond to the situation. Shorewood Police say initial responders arrived to the 3500 block of North Oakland Ave. at around 2:30 p.m. The suspects have not been named and police have not released further details at this time.

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AARP Wisconsin says about 89,000 people will be forced off BadgerCare and will be uninsured unless they can purchase insurance through exchanges set up through the federal healthcare plan. While the state legislature approved a budget this week that would turn town millions in federal money to expand BadgerCare, AARP says there is still an opportunity for the state to accept that money.

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A Madison man appeared in Dane County court yesterday accused of killing a homeless man. 32-year-old Justin Brooks is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and misdemeanor bail jumping. Authorities say Robert Kuntz died from injuries suffered in a “targeted attack” earlier in the week, across from the state Capitol. 

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We Energies crews are working to restore power to about a thousand of its customers, following storms that swept across the state. A spokesperson for the company says outages have been reported across their system, primarily in the Southeast portion of the state and Milwaukee. We Energies says lightning strikes were the main cause of outages with the storms this afternoon. To report downed power lines or power outages, contact We Energies at 800-662-4797.

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The Department of Natural Resources is holding a live chat on Monday to discuss the implementation of deer research recommendations. Eric Lobner is the Deer Trustee Report coordinator for DNR, and says the June 24 chat will begin at noon. Anyone interested in joining the chat or to find more information on the trustee report can go to the department’s website at dnr.wi.gov (dnr.wi.gov) or their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WIDNR). Lobner says the ultimate goal is to bring hunters, citizens and department personnel closer together and better communicate with the public.

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If you are looking for something to do this weekend, the 48th annual Greek Fest is going on at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis. The festival kicked off yesterday and will run until Sunday, June 23rd. Organizers say the festival is free to the public and is a good opportunity to experience traditional Greek culture, food and music. For more information, visit www.Facebook.com/MkeGreekFest.

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Governor Scott Walker’s office re-affirmed today that it would not remove proposed limits on private school choice students from the new state budget. The choice program has operated for 20 years in Milwaukee and two years in Racine, giving state funds to a limited number of low-income students if they families believe they’d be better off in private schools. The budget passed this week by the Legislature would expand the choice program statewide, with limits of 500 students this fall outside of Milwaukee and Racine, and a-thousand students in the 2014 school year. Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton said he would not be surprised if Walker vetoes the enrollment caps, saying it would play well to national conservatives as Walker considers a run for president in 2016. However, Walker said he would “stay true” to a compromise which created the enrollment caps. Walker’s office re-affirmed the promise today – but it would not say what other items the governor might veto from the 14-hundred-page budget. Walker promised to decide on vetoes and sign the budget in time for the new package to take effect in 10 days.

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The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for parts of four rivers in Wisconsin, due to today’s heavy rains and thunderstorms. Minor flooding is expected in all four cases. The warnings are on the Kickapoo River at Readstown from this afternoon through Sunday morning – the Yellow River at Babcock from tonight to Sunday afternoon – the Black River at Black River Falls from tomorrow night into Monday – and the Black River at Galesville from Monday to Wednesday. Also, the Weather Service has issued a marine warning for high winds on Lake Michigan from Sheboygan southward until mid-afternoon. Winds of 52-miles-an-hour were reported at Sheboygan earlier today. South Milwaukee had three-fourths-of-an-inch of rain in one hour at mid-day. A minor mudslide was reported on Highway 35 at Genoa in southwest Wisconsin. At mid-day, an estimated 20-thousand electric customers were without power throughout Wisconsin. More thunderstorms are in the forecast through tonight. Lesser chances of rain are possible for the weekend and into early next week.

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The Ashland County Board has approved two measures designed to protect taxpayers for infra-structure costs related to Gogebic Taconite’s proposed iron ore mine. The company would have to pay Ashland County $100,000 up-front, and then keep a minimum balance of $50,000 to reimburse the county for its expenses. Supervisor Frank Kempf voted against both requirements. He said it would send a signal that Ashland County opposes mining. He believes Gogebic Taconite would simply move its project to neighboring Iron County, where exploratory work is underway. The proposed mine covers a four-mile stretch in parts of both Ashland and Iron counties. The company’s Bob Seitz says his firm will take a close look at the Ashland ordinances, to make sure they don’t run in conflict with state law. The Iron County Board is also looking at its own mining rules. Reports say the County Board in Hurley could take that up at its meeting on July 2.

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Governor Scott Walker promises to sign the new state budget by July 1st, when it’s scheduled to take effect. Walker says he’ll review the 1,400-page policy-and-spending package to see if should veto any line items. For now, he said he’s proud of what his fellow Republicans in the Legislature have done. He praised the approval of an across-the-board income tax cut, 250-dollars more in public school aid per student over the next two years, and an expansion of private school choice. Walker also made another defense of his refusal to accept new federal Medicaid funds, and place those just above the poverty line into the Obama health exchanges starting next year. The governor promised that the new budget would bring more prosperity to Wisconsinites. Three Assembly Republicans and GOP Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center joined all Democrats in voting against the package. Schultz said he joined Democrats in opposing the expansion of the voucher program, which gives tax money to low-income students to attend private schools on a limited basis. Schultz voted for the creation of the choice program 20 years ago. Since then, he said there’s no adequate evidence that the program is working, “let alone worthy of expansion."

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A central Wisconsin man now claims he was insane when he allegedly killed his girlfriend in March. 28-year-old Coleman Dybul of Adams has changed his plea from innocent to innocent-by-insanity in the shooting death of 27-year-old Toni Voss. Visiting judge Guy Dutcher ordered a psychiatric exam for Dybul, and the results will be reviewed at a court hearing on August sixth. According to prosecutors, Dybul mistook Voss for an intruder when he woke up during the night, grabbed his gun, and shot her. Dybul is a former Marine who served in Afghanistan. He told officers that to him, the incident was like he was still in the Middle East – where he either had to kill, or be killed. Dybul is charged with reckless homicide.  ____________________________________________________

Mercedes-Benz has paid another $260,000 in a Wisconsin Lemon Law court case involving a defective vehicle. A Waukesha County judge this week ordered the automaker to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. Attorney Vince Megna sued Mercedes in 2005 on behalf of a Waukesha businessman who bought a defective sedan, and did not get a refund within the Lemon Law’s current 30-day deadline. The State Supreme Court ordered Mercedes to pay $482,000 – double the damages – for not meeting that deadline. Megna also said that the company owed interest for the time the case was being fought in court. That brought the total payments by Mercedes to 618-thousand dollars, and the new legal fee order makes it a grand total of almost $880,000. This is the case that inspired Republican legislators to make the Lemon Law less tart. The state Assembly recently voted 88-8 to eliminate the double-damage provision for victims – to extend the deadline to 45 days to give refunds or replacements – and reduce the time period in which lawsuits can be filed from six years to three. The Senate takes up the bill next.

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A gay pride parade scheduled for today in Wausau has been called off, after a public backlash that reportedly made some participants afraid for their safety. Daxx Bouvier – who lives in California but owns a house in Wausau – organized the event. But once public criticism hit the local media, Bouvier sent a notice to the city this week that he was calling it off. He tells the Wausau Daily Herald he’s disappointed in the public’s response, especially by those he never met. He said participants told him they had feared for their safety. Bouvier calls it a loss to the Wausau area’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans-gender community – and the parade’s cancellation quote, “set Wausau back 30 years in the way people think about the gay community.” Meanwhile, Shannon Thomas of Wausau says an unrelated “March for Equality” will be held tomorrow afternoon from Marathon Park on Wausau’s west side to the downtown area. She told the Daily Herald she hopes about 300 will show up. WSAU Radio said officials expect less than a dozen people. City Clerk Toni Rayala says they’ll using sidewalks – and they won’t need a permit because no city services have been requested. 

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Two drivers killed in a head-on crash in Green County were identified as 23-year-old David Bridgeland of Monroe and 32-year-old Joshua Langkamp of Dodgeville. Sheriff’s deputies said Bridgeland’s car crossed a center line, and collided with a van driven by Langkamp. No one else was in their vehicles. The crash happened yesterday afternoon on Highway 69 near New Glarus. Deputies said both motorists were wearing seat belts. Authorities said autopsies and toxicology tests were pending, to determine if there were any medical, alcohol, or drug factors in the crash. It will be a few weeks before some of those test results are known. 

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A funnel cloud was spotted near Wausau this morning. The National Weather Service said there was a public report at seven a-m of an apparent twister that never landed. It was seen about seven miles west of Wausau near Highway 107 and Marathon County Trunk “U.” The Weather Service said many trees went down at that rural location. In the next county to the west, one-and-a-half inches rain fell near Loyal in Clark County. That was during the six o’clock hour this morning, when heavy storms also hit the La Crosse region. Street flooding was reported in Onalaska, and Holmen had 55-mile-an-hour winds. In Grant County, winds hit 58-miles-an-hour in Boscobel around 7:30. All those storms triggered severe weather warnings to their east, until around eight o’clock. It’s a rough beginning to summer – which officially began at 12:04 this morning. It’s the longest day of the year for sunlight, but forecasters the sun will continue to be hidden by clouds and rain statewide, at least through tonight.

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Once again, Wisconsin consumer officials are telling folks not to give out personal information and pay upfront fees to get a prize. The latest alert involves a scam in which callers are told they’ve won the Publishers’ Clearinghouse contest. To get their prize, they’re told to buy a pre-paid Green Dot Money-Pak card, load it with enough money to pay the fees – and then give them the number. In two cases, state officials said the scammers offered discounts when the unsuspecting winners said they couldn’t afford the fees. The state’s consumer protection agency says sweepstakes are among the most common consumer complaints. With the state’s population getting older, and with the economy on the rebound, more Wisconsinites are getting calls about scams. 

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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