WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Dog-fighting ring broken up, arrests made
MILWAUKEE - Thirteen people have been arrested after a year-long investigation into a dog-fighting ring which had its base in the Milwaukee area.
At a news conference today, prosecutors said 10 people were charged in federal court with multiple counts -- and two others face state felony charges. All of the defendants are from Milwaukee. They're accused of having dogs participate in fighting, or training them to do so. Federal indictments listed 23 dogs that were allegedly used or planning to be used for dog-fighting. One animal was found dead, while authorities recovered the rest. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said one suspect remained at large as of mid-day.
Traffic deaths were down compared to a year ago in Wisconsin, as the lingering winter may have kept more people home. According to preliminary figures from the state DOT, 33 people died in state traffic crashes in March. That's two fewer than a year ago, and four more than the average for the past five years. For the first three months of the year, 89 people were killed in Wisconsin road crashes -- 15 fewer than in March of 2013, and six less than the five-year average. Someday, when winter leaves us, officials say drivers will see more construction zones -- and the DOT is encouraging people to slow down for the workers. Last year, Wisconsin had around 16-hundred mishaps in work zones. Nine people died in those accidents, and almost 625 others were injured.
It's not politics that's making strange bed-fellows this week -- it's basketball. Wisconsin's two U.S. senators have made a friendly bet with Kentucky's two senators on the outcome of Saturday night's NCAA Final Four game between the Badgers and Wildcats. Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin are putting up a host of Wisconsin cheeses and brats -- while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Republican Rand Paul say they'll fork over a Kentucky Derby Pie from Louisville if the Badgers win. Baldwin, who's rated one of the most liberal members of Congress, said she never imagined that the Badgers would bring her together with three staunch conservatives. She said she looks forward to the pie, and it's a shame that Kentucky's senators would not get to enjoy the brats and cheese. McConnell said he looks forward to the Wisconsin products for dessert after Saturday's game. He calls Kentucky the "basketball capital of the world."
Congressman Tom Petri says he expects to survive what could be his first serious election challenge in decades. State Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend said today he would run against the Fond du Lac Republican in a primary in August. The 73-year-old Petri has been in Congress for over 35 years, winning most of his elections with over 60-percent of the vote. But UW-Oshkosh professor Jim Simmons tells the AP that Petri is a vanishing breed -- a pragmatic Republican amid growing polarization and a national effort to quote, "purify" the GOP. Petri has almost a million-dollars in his campaign war-chest, and he's best known for bringing home federal money to his district. However, Simmons says Petri is not the most charismatic campaigner -- and today's hyperpartisan atmosphere makes him vulnerable when he votes against the party line. Also, there were recent reports that Petri had a conflict-of-interest by owning stock in the Oshkosh Corporation, while making a push to have the company keep a multi-million-dollar military contract. Grothman, who's been in the state Legislature for over two decades, has championed conservative causes. He said Petri's a good man, but he represents a bygone era when the GOP did not fight as hard for a smaller government or rising federal spending. Grothman does not live in the Sixth District and will have to move there before the filing deadline.
Police in a small southern Wisconsin city will stop blacking out ages, addresses, and other information from police reports. The Milton City Council has voted unanimously to stop what's now a common practice in Wisconsin -- blacking out information for fear they'll be sued under a federal driver privacy act. A federal appeals court ruled in 2012 that a parking ticket placed on a car in Illinois violated the act by listing personal information from the vehicle's owner. The Wisconsin Open Records Law says the data is public record, and required to be released by those who ask. Last month, a judge in Saint Croix County ruled that the federal decision does not apply to information requests under the state's Open Records Law. Milton City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said officials need to err on the side of openness -- although the city's insurance company suggests otherwise. Council member Anissa Welch said she has a hard time having an insurance company quote, "tell us how open and transparent our own government should be."
Authorities said a man accidentally shot himself to death today at a business in suburban Milwaukee. It happened around 8:50 this morning at Bob Lanier Enterprises in Menomonee Falls. Police said the man inadvertently shot himself in the chest, and he died from it. Officials did not say whether he worked at the business.
A state appeals court says the village of Lake Delton will not reimburse those whose homes were washed down the Wisconsin River in the 2008 floods. Part of the lake's shoreline got blown out as the result of torrential rains. Lake Delton was drained empty by the breach, and several lakeshore homes also got washed away. Video of the breaking houses made worldwide news, and the episode results in a large drop in Wisconsin Dells tourism for rest of '08. The homeowners went to court in 2009, claiming that the village took away their property without compensation. A Sauk County circuit judge said the village took no direct action to cause the losses, and therefore the homeowners are not entitled to win damages. Today, the Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison ruled the same way, noting there was no village action to justify compensation from the taxpayers.
The head of a state government watchdog group is leaving. Mike McCabe says it's time to move on after 15 years as the director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The group produces a database and numerous reports on campaign donations and spending in state government elections. News media and others have come to rely on the information to keep track of money in politics -- much to the chagrin of politicians and their donors. McCabe says he does not have another job lined up, and the decision to leave was his. He was only the second director of the Democracy Campaign since it began in 1995.
Fond du Lac police officials say residents expect officers to act safely when they respond to emergencies. Patrol officer Melissa Sprangers learned that lesson, after she was suspended for 20 days for getting into three accidents with squad cars during a one-year period. The Fond du Lac Reporter dug up records about the incidents and Sprangers' punishment. Last November, police said the officer was driving up to 67-miles-an-hour while answering a request for a back-up. She hit another squad car, and both were totaled. In March of last year, Sprangers was suspended for one day after she was caught driving too fast. And in late 2012, she received a written warning for striking a parked car. Assistant Police Chief Steve Klein told the Fond du Lac paper that the 20-day suspension shows how serious the department is about demanding safe driving by patrol personnel. Besides the suspension, she had to get remedial driver training. All officers complete a one-day driving course every two years.
Governor Scott Walker visited a Milwaukee cancer center this afternoon, to sign a bill to let patients get more affordable chemotherapy pills. The state Senate gave final approval to the measure on Tuesday. It requires health insurers to either cover the expensive chemo pills, or limit co-pays to $100 a month. It's designed to help cancer patients take oral chemotherapy at home, instead of having to make regular hospital visits to get similar treatments through tubes and needles. Legislative leaders used procedural moves to block approval of the measure until the word got out about those tactics a few weeks ago -- and both the public and most of their representatives expressed overwhelming support. Also today, Walker will go to an airplane maker at Greenville, near Appleton, to sign a bill that grants a new sales tax exemption for aircraft maintenance, parts, and labor. State Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah had said it could generate almost twice as much tax revenue in the form of higher business for aviation firms.
Two ice fishermen ventured onto Mud Lake in McFarland yesterday afternoon. Six hours later, when it was time to go home, the ice along the shore had melted. And they were stuck at their ice hole with water all around them. Lee Shear and Dave Robinette used a cell phone call 911. Dane County sheriff's deputies responded, along with rescuers from McFarland and Madison. Shear told WMTV in Madison that some of the rescue personnel went through the ice as they approached the two men. Shear said the help arrived just in time. If it was a half-hour later, he said they would have to swim in the near-freezing water.