WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: State revenue agents confiscate illegal cigarettes
MADISON - About 70,000 packs of cigarettes were seized by state revenue agents, as they were being sent to stores on Indian reservations without the required state tax stamps.
Officials say the state would have lost about $175,000 in tax revenues, had the cigarettes made it to their destinations. The Wisconsin State Journal said the cigarettes came from a company on a Winnebago Indian reservation in northeast Nebraska. They were headed to stores on reservations and trust lands for the Saint Croix, Bad River, and Ho-Chunk tribes. Deputy Revenue Secretary Jack Jablonski said the shipments were happening for some time. He says it’s illegal for transport unstamped cigarettes in Wisconsin without a license. No charges have been filed in the case.
A jury in Marathon County has convicted former girls’ high school basketball coach Rory McKellips on two of the four sex-related charges against him. He was accused of having sexual contact three times with one of his players in 2011 while he was coaching at Athens High School. But the jury did not find him guilty of that offense. Instead, the 56-year-old McKellips was convicted of using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, and obstructing police by lying about what he did with a cell-phone that he gave to his victim. He was found innocent on the more serious charges of repeated child sex assault, and exposure. After those verdicts were read, the now-17-year-old victim ran from the courtroom in tears. McKellips won a state championship during a 16-year tenure at Mosinee High School before going to Wisconsin Valley Lutheran for a year, and then to Athens. A sentencing date was not immediately set.
A Madison man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for stabbing another man to death last September. 25-year-old Dominique Hale was convicted of second-degree intentional homicide in the death of 39-year-old Willie Taylor, who was with Hale’s ex-girlfriend at the time. Authorities said Hale busted into her apartment and went after Taylor. The victim escaped to a sidewalk outside the apartment building, where Hale beat and stabbed Taylor. The woman said Hale chased her as well, and she received cuts in the incident. The defendant had been freed from prison only 15 months earlier, after he tortured a man in Cottage Grove in 2007. He finished that term six months early, after a judge said he was not a danger to society. Yesterday, Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan disagreed, calling Hale a “significant threat.”
A Sparta man has been sentenced to five years in prison for causing a drunk driving crash that killed his brother. 27-year-old Jason Schodeberg must also spend five years under extended supervision, after his conviction for homicide by drunk driving. His 33-year-old brother Glenn Schodeberg was killed in a car that overturned in Monroe County in July of 2009. Prosecutors said Jason could not remember who was driving at the time. Authorities said he ran from the crash scene, and denied that he was ever involved. His ex-girlfriend later told investigators that he admitted driving drunk and crashing the car. Officials said Schodeberg had drug and alcohol addictions that resulted in a long criminal record. He told a judge that he’s ready to deal with his addictions.
A Mauston man said he lost almost $20,000 because the state DOT made a mistake on the title for an S-U-V that he bought from a private party last December. Rick Davis is now asking the Bureau of Vehicle Services to compensate him – and the head of the agency says he’ll be “made whole.” Davis said he paid a northern Wisconsin seller 31-thousand dollars for a 2011 Chevy Avalanche. WISC-TV in Madison said the vehicle was totaled in an earlier accident – but the title did not say it was “salvaged,” and Davis assumed it was given a clean bill of health. Davis later tried selling the vehicle after his wife said it gave her back problems. The first prospective buyer learned from a Car-Fax that it was rebuilt. The state has offered to pay to get the vehicle re-inspected for a new title, but Davis said he hasn’t done that yet. He said he has a $12,000 offer from a potential buyer – almost $20,000 less than what he paid just seven months ago.
An Antigo man is Wisconsin’s latest million-dollar lottery winner. Bien Ngo won the one-million-dollar second prize in the May 18th Powerball drawing. He said he waited until just now to cash in his ticket, because he hoped that quote, “people would have forgotten about it.” Since the lottery is a government agency, the winners’ names are public record in Wisconsin – and officials said Ngo understood that his name would be out there. He gets $672,500 dollars after taxes.
More rain is in the forecast for Wisconsin today – but unlike much of the past week, the National Weather Service does not expect anything severe. A number of Wisconsin communities had downpours of three-inches and more during the past week. However, much of the state was dry yesterday, and no place got more than a half-inch of rain when the showers returned last night. Showers and spotty thunderstorms are in today’s forecast, with highs in the 70’s. Clear weather is in the statewide forecast tomorrow through Tuesday, with the possibility of rain returning on Wednesday. Meanwhile, flood warnings continue on parts of seven rivers in southern Wisconsin – the Mississippi, Kickapoo, Rock, Pecatonica, Fox, and Sugar rivers, and Turtle Creek near Beloit.
For the second time this week, authorities had to rescue kayakers from fast-moving rain-swollen rivers in far southern Wisconsin. On Tuesday, six rescue agencies were called to save a pair of 18-year-olds who admitted they should not have gone out on Turtle Creek in Beloit. A day later, in the next county to the east, two people were saved when their kayaks got into trouble on the White River. Walworth County authorities said 29-year-old Adriane Granlund of Elkhorn lost control on a heavy current, and got pinned against a large log. Jim McKay of Lake Villa, Illinois pulled over his canoe to try and save her – and his boat flipped over. Rescuers said Granlund was starting to get hypothermia by the time she was rescued. They used ropes and floatation devices to pull both Granlund and McKay out of the water. Parts of eight Wisconsin rivers and streams – including Turtle Creek – are under flood warnings. Authorities urge people to take extra precautions, and avoid fast-moving waters.
The USDA says the nation’s overall corn crop will not suffer because of an extremely wet spring in Wisconsin and other parts of the Midwest. The government said today that corn has been planted on almost 97-and-a-half million acres around the country – and the expected harvest is just over 89-million bushels. Both numbers are higher than they were three months ago, despite the fact that Wisconsin has planted 150-thousand fewer acres of corn due to the wet weather. Minnesota was down by 300-thousand acres, Iowa 200,000, and Kansas 100,000 acres. As it turns out, other states planted more corn than projected. Texas and Nebraska farmers each put in an additional 300,000 acres. Michigan added an extra 200,000 acres. At least some people believe the USDA’s total corn figure is too high. Jerry Main of Fairfield Iowa said a lot of corn was replanted – and he says those fields will harvest only 80-percent of what they could have brought in without the replanting.
Where tragedy goes, scammers follow. That’s the latest warning from state consumer protection officials, as a week of heavy thunderstorms and flooding is about to end across Wisconsin. Officials say fly-by-night, storm-chasing contractors normally visit hard-hit communities, offering repair and construction deals that sound too good to be true. Sandy Chalmers of the consumer protection agency says the scammers demand high payments up-front, and increase their prices as their work for no reason. And when they leave, victims have no place to go to complain. The consumer agency says storm victims should be wary of any contractors who knock at your door – use reputable local contractors – check out anyone you’re not sure about – ask for things like contracts, lien waivers, and warranty documents – and remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Behind every storm, there’s a silver lining. A Portage family learned that lesson, after a three-year-old boy appeared to suffer just minor injuries when he fell from a second-story window. Police said the youngster was leaning on a screen yesterday when it broke – and the three-year-old fell on the soft, rain-soaked grass outside. He was taken to a Portage hospital before being transferred to UW Hospital in Madison. Police said the boy’s parents were home at the time – and they will not face charges in the incident.
Authorities in Shawano County are looking for a hit-and-run driver, after a 22-year-old man was found dead along a highway early Friday. Sheriff’s deputies said Timothy Meade of Stephenson Michigan was found lying on County Trunk “M” near Shawano around 2:30 this morning. The county coroner later pronounced him dead. Investigators said Meade appeared to have been hit by a larger vehicle – like a pick-up truck or an SUV – that was heading into Shawano.
No Milwaukee police officers will be disciplined for the death of Derek Williams, who collapsed in a squad car after being arrested for a 2011 robbery. The city’s Fire-and-Police Commission reviewed the matter, and then told Williams’ girlfriend about its decision. Police policy requires officers to remain aware of their prisoners’ physical conditions. However, the review panel said the officers could not see Williams as well as a squad car video that recorded him as he was gasping for air and pleading for help in the back seat. The MIlwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the commission did not mention that one officer failed to check on Williams by saying, “You’re breathing just fine” – or that a sergeant at the scene apparently violated police policy by not completing paperwork about the episode. Earlier this year, an inquest jury recommended misdemeanor charges against three officers – but the presiding judge refused to move any charges forward. A month ago, the U.S. attorney’s office said it would not seek federal charges in the matter. Federal prosecutors are still said to be considering the possibility of suing Milwaukee Police for a reported pattern of civil rights violations.
The UW System has pulled out of a new contract with a high-speed Internet provider. Wisc-Net won the contract a month ago. The non-profit group provides Web access to UW campuses, state government agencies, public schools, and public libraries. State legislative Republicans questioned whether the UW has been subsidizing Wisc-Net, in violation of a law they passed in the last session. The UW said it withdrew from the contract because of a potential for appeals and further legislative action. The UW has started seeking bids for a new Internet provider. Meanwhile, state public school Superintendent Tony Evers said the UW’s move puts the future of Wisc-Net in doubt – and it might force its remaining users to find more expensive Internet options.
A Sikh religious group will try for a second time next week to give a federal summons to the chief minister of a state in India. Sikhs-for-Justice tried serving a summons last year against Punjab minister Parkash Singh Badal. The group’s first effort was struck down in May, after a judge ruled that the wrong person was served. The Sikh group accused Badal of human rights violations in his home country – and Badal’s son has been added as a defendant in a pair of lawsuits filed in federal court in Milwaukee. Badal is scheduled to be in Wisconsin for a wedding next Friday. This time, the justice group is vowing to be much more careful – and vigilant – in tracking down the defendants. The group has hired three professional servers to find Badal and his son. They’ll check out airports in Milwaukee and Chicago – and they’ll stake out the wedding. Sikhs for Justice has offered a 10-thousand dollar reward to anyone who can successfully serves the papers.
For the first time since March, the manufacturing economy of southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois got better in June. That’s according to the Institute for Supply Chain Management and a research center at Marquette University. An index that measures the region’s overall industrial health was at 51.6 in June – up from almost 41 the month before. Anything over 50 indicates growth. Anything below 50 shows that the factory economy is on the decline. The Marquette report shows that seasonal manufacturers are on the rise, but other businesses are still lagging somewhat. The report says buyers still hesitate to order industrial components for more than eight weeks into the future.
The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing July 10th on the announced sale of Smithfield Foods to Shaunghui International of China. The transaction includes the Patrick Cudahy meat plant in suburban Milwaukee. Senate Ag panel chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) says the hearing will examine the proposed acquisition – plus a more general look at the government’s review process, effects on food safety, and protections of U.S. technologies and intellectual property. Smithfield Foods CEO Larry Pope is expected to testify. Stabenow and other lawmakers have asked that the USDA and the Food-and-Drug Administration be included as part of the government’s review of the pending sale.
More of Wisconsin’s military heritage will start going on display tomorrow in Sheboygan. The Wisconsin Naval Ship Association will re-open its new Military Heritage Museum and Education Center. It was open for a short time last year. But it was shut down after the museum’s parking lot became a drying station for a nearby dredging project on the Sheboygan River. The association’s president, Larry Hinkelman, says the free museum will honor all branches of the military. Most exhibits have come from veterans and their families. The group wanted to open the museum in time for the Fourth-of-July. A formal grand opening will not take place until August.