WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Guardsmen suspended over Instagram photo
MADISON - Two members of the National Guard have been suspended following an investigation of a social media photo that has sparked outrage.
In the Instagram photo, several Guardsman are shown posing around a drape casket with the caption “We put the FUN in funeral – your fearless honor guard from various states”. The photo was reportedly posted by Soc, Terry Harrison in February. While policy prevents the Guard from disclosing disciplinary actions as a result of an internal investigation, both Harrison and Sgt. Luis Jimenez of the Wisconsin National Guard have been suspended from honor guard duties. Leaders have called the photos “appalling” and “offensive”.
A 15-year-old high school student is in some hot water for allegedly bringing a handgun to school. Beloit police say the teen was taken into custody by a school resource officer at Beloit Memorial High School yesterday afternoon, after reports of a possible threat towards someone outside the school district. Police add that the weapon found was reportedly stolen from a Beloit home the day before. The teen is in detention, awaiting a court date. Officials say the school was not the target, and the teen was arrested without incident.
A recent report shows tax collections across the state is lagging. The Department of Revenue’s latest tax report shows the state collected over ten-and-a-half billion dollars since July 1, down two-tenths-of-a-percent from the previous year and falling short of projected figures. Governor Scott Walker is downplaying the figures, saying he is not concerned… while Democrats are calling it “irresponsible”.
Wisconsin was pounded by hail and gulley-washers with up to a half-foot of rain this month. And even after all that, authorities warn Memorial Day Weekend campers to be careful with fire. DNR ranger-and-forester John Gillen of Rhinelander says things can change quickly, even with all the recent dampness. He says the risk for forest fires will grow if it stays dry for a few days. That's because leaves, twigs, and branches can dry out very quickly before the spring green-up is fully completed. The DNR says the entire state is under a moderate risk of wildfires this weekend. Dry weather is in the forecast at least Sunday night, when a chance of rain will continue through Memorial Day.
A state appeals court said a Madison lawyer is not entitled to worker's compensation, after he was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash while cultivating a client. Forty-four Jacob Westerhof went with a real estate appraiser to a Harley-Davidson rally at Tomahawk -- and he crashed one of the appraiser's bikes near Wausau and became a paraplegic. That was in 2006. In '09, Westerhof filed for worker's compensation, saying the trip was part of his marketing efforts to cultivate clients for his law firm. The firm's insurance carrier rejected the claim -- and so did an administrative law judge, a state review commission, and a circuit judge. The appellate court said the motorcycle trip was not initiated by Westerhof for the express purpose of entertaining a client for business purposes.
A Racine man has pleaded no contest to helping his father die from a drug overdose. Twenty-four year old Adam Jaskulske will be sentenced July 24th, after he was convicted on a reduced charge of second-degree reckless homicide. Before his plea deal, Jaskulske was charged with being a party to first-degree reckless homicide in the death of 49-year-old Glen Jaskulske of Racine in June of 2012. Authorities said Glen died after a night of partying with his son, in which he took heroin provided by 27-year-old Aaron Mianecki of Racine. Mianecki has pleaded no contest to reckless homicide in death in Racine and Dodge counties during 2012.
A Door County man was given back his freedom today, after he struck a plea deal to settle a hit-and-run charge in a 2011 traffic death. Forty-two year old Mark Sperber spent just over two years behind bars, after he was convicted in the death of 20-year-old John Kennedy. The victim was riding in a wheelchair on the side of a snowy road in January of 2011. Sperber ran Kennedy over with his vehicle. On appeal, Sperber claimed his trial lawyer was ineffective -- because he never told the jury that his client thought he drove into a garbage can. He was later awarded a new trial, which he averted with today's plea bargain. Sperber agreed to enter an Alford plea -- which allows him not to admit guilt even though he agrees there's enough evidence to convict him. A judge accepted the plea, and then sentenced Sperber to the time he had already served.
The search continued this afternoon for two men who were shooting at each other, when one of their bullets critically wounded a ten-year-old girl. Milwaukee Police lieutenant Mark Stanmeyer said investigators have identified one of the gunmen -- and both were still being sought as of early afternoon. Third-grader Sierra Guyton was caught in the cross-fire while on a playground Wednesday evening at Clarke Street Elementary School on Milwaukee's north side. Sierra was still in critical condition at mid-day at Milwaukee Children's Hospital. She was still getting treatment, even though her family said she was brain dead and on life support.
Ground beef that's being recalled by a Detroit company may have been sent to stores in ten states, including Wisconsin. Wolverine Packing said the beef may have been contaminated with E-coli bacteria. Federal officials said today that 11 people have gotten sick from eating the product. The recalled beef appears to have been sent to the Gordon Food Marketplace stores in Wisconsin. Gordon outlets in several other states also received the same beef for sale. Beside Wisconsin, the states affected are Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. More information about the recall is available at the USDA's Web site.
Federal Judge Barbara Crabb has not decided what to do about a legal challenge to Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage. But state attorney general J.B. Van Hollen has already asked the judge to delay any order she might make to strike down the ban -- so same-sex marriages don't become legal if he decides to appeal the matter. Van Hollen told WISN-TV in Milwaukee last weekend that he expects Crabb to rule against him -- which would make an appeal possible. The ACLU filed suit in February on behalf of eight gay couples to strike down Wisconsin's 2006 constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions. They also want to strike down a state law making it a crime for Wisconsin residents to have same-sex weddings elsewhere. They contend that their civil rights are being violated. Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin residents voted yes to the gay marriage ban seven years ago -- but voter sentiment has changed since then. A new Marquette University Law School said 55-percent of Wisconsin registered voters favored same-sex marriage, with 37-percent against. If a third option for civil unions is allowed, 49-percent support same-sex marriage, 25-percent support civil unions, and 18-percent would oppose any legal recognition.
As the mercury rises, so do sales for Wisconsin's homemade motorcycle brand. A new report from the Milwaukee investment firm of Robert W. Baird and Company shows that Harley-Davidson dealerships were slow when it was cold, and got more business after it started warming up. Overall, Harley dealers expect their retail sales to grow by five-percent this year -- up from a four-point-four percent increase in 2013. Baird surveyed 51 Harley dealers throughout the U.S., Canada, and overseas. They also found that dealers want to get their hands on more bikes to sell. Eighty-three percent said their inventories were either too low, or about right for this time of year. One dealer was quoted as saying they couldn't get enough of Harley's hottest-sellers -- like the FLHTK and FLHXS. A lack of trade-ins has kept down the supplies of Harley's used bikes. Fifty-seven percent of the Harley dealers surveyed were selling their bikes below the recommended retail price. However, the Baird survey projects stronger sales in what may be a shorter selling season.
A judge set bond at $200,000 for a 19-year-old man accused of setting fires to an apartment building and a school playground in New London. Justin McLamarrah made his first court appearance yesterday on Waupaca County charges of attempted homicide and arson. A man and a woman were injured when they jumped from their second story apartment in a fire at that complex on Tuesday. Six other residents lost their homes in the blaze. Prosecutors quoted McLamarrah as saying he set the fire as payback because somebody owed him $100 for marijuana. About an hour after the apartment fire, a playground was set on fire outside of New London High School. Authorities say they don't know a motive yet for the playground blaze.
If you're on the road this weekend and you forgot your swimming suit, it might not be the worst thing. Authorities discourage swimming in Lake Michigan, due to extremely cold water temperatures left over from our extended cold winter. The National Weather Service says lake-shore temperatures are still as cold as the upper-30's between Sheboygan and Kenosha. That's cold enough to cause hypothermia within 15 minutes. The Weather Service has reported several deaths from hypothermia along the Michigan and Indiana shores of the big lake. The good news for vacationers is that it's supposed to get warmer on land. Highs in the 70's are expected for the entire Memorial Day Weekend. Clear skies are in the forecast until a chance of rain returns on Sunday night and the Monday holiday.
A Purdue University student now claims he was insane when he allegedly killed a classmate from Wisconsin. Cody Cousins' lawyer indicated earlier he would pursue an insanity defense for his 23-year-old client. A notice for such a defense was filed yesterday -- and Judge Thomas Busch appointed two mental health experts to examine Cousins today. A third expert will examine the defendant later. Cousins is charged with murder in the January slaying of 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend. Boldt was stabbed and shot while he was serving as a professor's assistant in an electrical engineering class at Purdue. Cousins told a judge a couple weeks ago that he was given medication to treat schizophrenia and control his moods. Besides the insanity plea, defense lawyer Kirk Freeman has asked that a possible trial be moved to an Indiana county outside of Purdue's home at West Lafayette.
No two states are alike -- and that's especially true in seeing what people search for when they're on the Internet. The Seattle-based home search Web site Estately ran hundreds of search queries through Google Trends to identify the words, phrases, and questions that folks in each state were searching for, more than any other. Here are the Wisconsin terms that came up most often -- Beanie Babies, Green Party, log rolling, menthol cigarettes, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Oprah's Book Club, and survival shelter. Other states had a wide range of favorites. Big Foot was one of the top searches in Idaho, along with caramel corn, unicorns, and potato. Jazzercise and shuffleboard were Nebraska's favorites. Only one entry was listed in each of two states -- Elvis Presley in Tennessee, and Nickelback in South Dakota. To see the list for all 50 states and Washington D.C., log onto blog.Estately.com.
A former Wisconsin senator who's in the Motorcycle Hall-of-Fame says Harley-Davidson is no longer honoring a warranty on his current bike, because it has too many flags flying on it. Dave Zien from Stanley has always been known around Wisconsin for his colorful flag-flying Harleys. His new bike had clutch and transmission failures on a ride to Dallas, and Harley rejected his repair warranty claim because of the flags. He has seven flags on his bike, including an American flag -- and he says he won't stop doing it that. Harley tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Zien's warranty is still in place, but the company denied his recent claim because the bike was not made to handle wind resistance from so many flags at highway speeds. Also, the company says his flag mounts are not Harley products. Zien rode over a million miles on his 1991 bike, which is now in the Hall of Fame's museum in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Chippewa Indians speared less than half of their walleye quota on lakes in their ceded treaty rights' territory in northern Wisconsin. So the state DNR increased the bag limits for sport anglers, just in time for their Memorial Day Weekend trips. Six Chippewa bands harvested around 27-thousand walleye and 201 muskies as of mid-May. That was about 25-hundred walleye below their average harvests, and around 100 muskies less. The tribes blame it on the cold and wet spring. Meanwhile, the DNR increased daily bag limits to five walleye on just over half of the 447 affected lakes. Another third of the lakes will have three-fish-per-day limits. The DNR also reminds anglers of a new mobile app that includes a host of helpful information -- including state regulations.
State and local authorities continue to investigate a one-vehicle crash that killed an Appleton man early Thursday. It happened about 2:45 a-m near Reedsville in Manitowoc County. Sheriff's deputies said the 51-year-old victim was on a town road which his pick-up truck veered into a ditch, struck a field-access driveway, and overturned. No one else was in the vehicle at the time.
Wisconsin media groups have asked a federal judge to unseal most documents in the state's current John Doe probe into the state's recall elections. In a motion filed late yesterday, attorneys for the news-gathering organizations said the releases would let the public oversee the actions of the state's executive and judicial branches. Prosecutors have asked that all documents connected with the John Doe be released. One of the targets of the probe, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, says it agrees that many documents should come out -- but not those exposing the group's internal activities. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa halted the two-year-old John Doe earlier this month, a move which prosecutors appealed. it deals with alleged illegal coordination between outside groups and recall targets from 2011-and-'12 -- including Governor Scott Walker's campaign.
A company that's best known for its kitchen garbage disposers plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Kenosha, and expand its operations in Racine. InSinkErator said today it would lease a building in the Kenosha business park, where production is due to begin about a year from now. The firm also plans to renovate its current Racine facility and buy new equipment. The total cost is 65-million dollars, and the firm has promised to add at least 165 jobs in the next four years. The state is kicking in up to 15-and-a-half million dollars in tax breaks, depending on the final amount spent for improvements and the number of jobs actually created. InSinkErator said it invented food waste disposers back in 1927. Today, it's the world's largest maker of disposers and hot water dispensers for both home and business use.
A watered-down effort to end the federal government's mass collection of phone calling records passed the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly this morning. The vote was 303-121 in favor of a bill first proposed by Menomonee Falls Republican Jim Sensenbrenner. He said he wished the USA Freedom Act could have done more. That was after it underwent some major changes this week. Privacy advocates and tech companies told the National Journal the bill has a number of loopholes and vaguely-defined steps the government can take to maintain its current spying powers. Sensenbrenner said he agrees with those who lament the changes -- but in the midst of intense negotiations this week, the bill still deserved approval. The new package requires the National Security Agency to stop retaining bulk collections of the phone numbers that Americans call, and at what times. Phone companies would keep those records for 18 months -- which most firms already do -- and the NSA can obtain court orders to check out connections to terrorist plots. The vote was Capitol Hill's first response to the concerns made almost a year ago by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The bill now goes to the Senate.
A new study from BMO Harris Bank shows that 28 percent of Wisconsin parents with kids under ten do not have any savings to tap for emergencies. The polling firm of Pollara conducted an online survey of 15-hundred parents in the bank's territory. The 150 Wisconsin families surveyed had an average of $8,400 dollars saved for emergencies -- less than the survey's total average of $9,700. Medical costs were a real concern. Wisconsin parents said they spent an average of 19-hundred dollars in out-of-pocket costs during their child's first year. In general, the study found that parents were caught off-guard by lots of child-related costs like bigger cars and higher utility bills. However, Kara Kaiser -- who heads the southeast Wisconsin division of BMO Harris Bank -- sees evidence that things are improving. She said families appear to be saving more than a few years ago -- and having an emergency fund is an important step to avoid going into debt. Kaiser said parents should have 3-to-6 months of pre-tax income saved for emergencies, in an account that's separate from the savings-and-checking accounts they normally use.
A 38-year-old man died in an overnight industrial accident in Milwaukee. Media reports said Stephen Rauth of suburban Greenfield fell while checking on a machine that had a malfunction. It happened around 1:30 this morning at a south side plant owned by the Sonag Company, which provides a number of construction-related services. Reports said Rauth worked at Sonag for about five years. The cause of the mishap was still being investigated.
Two of every three Wisconsin voters say Governor Scott Walker should give up his White House aspirations, and not run nationally in 2016. Only 27-percent of 805 registered voters in a new Marquette University Law School poll want the Republican Walker to run for president. Sixty-seven percent say he should stay home. Republicans in the poll are split 50-50 on the question. Only nine-percent of Democrats say Walker should run. Walker has repeatedly refused to say whether he would serve a full four-term as governor if he's re-elected this fall. Sixty-five percent in the Marquette poll do not believe that any governor can run for president and still handle their duties back home. U,S. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville got a little more support for a possible White House bid -- but still, a majority doesn't favor it. Fifty-one percent in the Marquette poll said Ryan should not head the GOP ticket in 2016, while 38-percent said he should run. Two of every three Republicans say Ryan should go for it, after he was the party's vice presidential nominee in 2012. As for the current president, Democrat Barack Obama now has a 48-percent approval rating in Wisconsin -- up from 47-percent in March. The percentage of those disapproving of Obama dropped by four points.
Authorities near Beloit are still trying to figure out how a fire destroyed four garbage trucks this week -- but they've ruled out arson or any other foul play. Two trash vehicles were engulfed in flames, and the other two were partially ablaze when firefighters arrived at Rock Disposal in the town of Beloit on Tuesday. Officials said the blaze apparently started in a cab of one garbage truck, and a fifth truck will need minor repairs. Total damage was estimated at a million dollars. Rock Disposal has about 25 garbage trucks in its fleet.
After a long winter in the Northwoods, all recreation trails have re-opened in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest -- just in time for the holiday weekend. Trails for horses, bicycles, and ATV's were closed for a while to prevent ruts and erosion due to saturated soils. Officials said the closings were designed to reduce damages when they're highly-used as the weather gets warmer. Some trails which were not at risk of damage had opened earlier. The U.S. Forest Service Web site has a map of the open trails and roads in Wisconsin's only national forest.