WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Judge will not delay lawsuit on same-sex marriage
MADISON - A federal judge in Madison will not delay a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage and civil unions.
The state Justice Department asked Federal Judge Barbara Crabb to hold up the case, until the Wisconsin Supreme Court decides whether the state's domestic partner registry is constitutional. Crabb said yesterday that a delay would not serve any purpose. She said the Justice Department never explained how the registry challenge would change the legal issues in the gay marriage suit. Former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle approved the domestic partner registry in 2009, to give same-sex couples about one-fifth of the legal benefits of married couples. The Wisconsin Family Action group has been trying to throw out the registry even before it took effect. The Supreme Court heard legal arguments last October, and a decision is pending. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the gay marriage challenge a few months ago, with several same-sex couples as the lead plaintiffs. The ban was added to the state constitution by voters in 2006. It defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Chippewa Indians have asked a federal appeals court to let them hunt deer at night in northern Wisconsin. District Judge Barbara Crabb said no last December, after a trial in her Madison courtroom last summer. In January, the tribes filed a notice that they would appeal -- and it happened yesterday. Six Chippewa tribes told the Seventh District appellate court in Chicago that night hunting has become more common, and the state can no longer argue that it's unsafe. Tribes have attempted for years to hunt deer at night in the off-reservation territory of the north, where treaty rights have long been established. The tribes' latest attempt began two years ago, after the state began a wolf hunt -- something the Indians have long opposed, believing that the animal is sacred. The Chippewa has also said the state previously allowed night-hunting in southern Wisconsin to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state's deer herd.
Wisconsin cancer patients would start getting affordable chemotherapy pills on January 1, if a bill that regulates the pills' insurance becomes law. The state Assembly passed an amended bill early last Friday. The Senate plans to vote on it next Tuesday. Final passage is expected, and Governor Scott Walker has agreed to sign it. Insurance companies would have to cover chemotherapy pills the same way they cover IV chemo treatments at hospitals -- or else there would be a $100 monthly limit on out-of-pocket costs for the pills. Patients have been asking for insurance coverage on the more convenient but very expensive chemo pills. As predicted, the issue has attracted strong bi-partisan support in the Legislature. The original Senate bill which mandated insurance for chemo pills passed 30-2. The Assembly bill with the co-payment cap passed 75-18. Janesville Senate Democrat Tim Cullen called the amendment "absurd and unreasonable" but stopped short of saying he would vote against it. State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) said the co-payment option could let insurers negotiate lower prices with drug companies -- thus helping patients and their employer-provided health plans.
Wisconsin veterans are ending their campaign to have the governor veto a bill which seeks to curtail lawsuits against asbestos exposure. Jason Johns of the Military Order of the Purple Heart said yesterday that he e-mailed veterans and told them to back off. Johns said the governor's policy adviser, Waylon Hurlburt, told the state's American Legion commander that Republican Scott Walker would sign the bill. Johns said the adviser indicated that putting pressure on the governor would quote, "not make a difference and would only irritate him." Johns said he doesn't want to risk future endeavors with the governor even though quote, "Retreat is not in my nature." A Walker spokeswoman said yesterday that the governor was still evaluating the bill -- which requires plaintiffs in asbestos suits to disclose which companies they're going after. Republicans say the bill would prevent plaintiffs from double-dipping by collecting twice from a business. Opponents said the bill would deny justice for those harmed by asbestos exposure, mainly veterans. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke accused the GOP of favoring special interests. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the state Veterans' Affairs agency never took a position on the bill. She said it's designed to promote transparency and make sure there's enough money for quote, "the truly injured" to be compensated down the road.
A former top official in the state Transportation Department is trying to win back an old job in the same agency. Steven Krieser was let go last August as an assistant deputy secretary. That's after he ranted on Facebook, comparing undocumented immigrants to Satan. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the 44-year-old Krieser later asked the DOT to give him the job he held before he got promoted -- a civil service post as a program leader in the motor vehicle division. Department Secretary Mark Gottlieb said no to that. Krieser then filed grievances with the agency's human resources office and the state Employment Relations agency -- and both were denied. Recently, he filed a complaint with the state's Employment Relations Commission. It claims that his punishment was excessive -- although the Journal Sentinel said he was able to resign last summer before he could be fired. On Facebook, Krieser was responding to comments about a controversial bumper sticker when he wrote that a "stream of wretched criminals" is crossing the border, ruining Southern states and breeding quote, "the animus that many American citizens feel toward them." Krieser's new complaint said no DOT or civil service employee was disciplined or fired for what he called their "horrific" conduct during the 2011 protests over the state's public union bargaining limits.
A former police lieutenant in southern Wisconsin faces 15 years in prison, after he admitted having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old runaway. 45-year-old Dennis Jenks of Madison has pleaded guilty in Dane County to one felony charge of repeated child sexual assault. Thirty-two other felony counts of child sexploitation and possessing child pornography were dropped in a plea deal. Jenks resigned from the Mount Horeb police force after he was first arrested early last year. The runaway was from Beloit, and authorities said he lived with Jenks in Madison from October of 2012 until the following February. The defendant said he tried confirming the youngster's age but could not do so. He also faces a federal charge for allegedly taking explicit photos and a video of himself and the youngster -- but his attorney said the federal charge would be dropped if he gets at least 15 years behind bars for his state conviction.
Two men will be sentenced May 16th for providing the heroin that helped kill a Marshfield woman. Authorities said 20-year-old Kayla Vanderwyst died in August of 2012, a day after she went to Wausau with the two defendants where 24-year-old Trenton Blume bought the heroin. Blume and 23-year-old Justin Drinka both pleaded no contest in Wood County to first-degree reckless homicide in delivering drugs. Prosecutors say they'll ask Circuit Judge Greg Potter to consider a four-year sentence for Drinka, who was also found guilty of three other burglary counts. A five-year-old sentence is recommended for Blume, who's in the state prison in Waupun on other convictions. An autopsy showed that Vanderwyst died from overdoses of heroin and morphine.
A Milwaukee judge says a trial should proceed in the case of two police officers wounded by guns that a dealership allegedly sold to criminals. Badger Guns and its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, failed to convince Circuit Judge Michael Goulee to throw out civil allegations against them. Goulee ruled yesterday that a lawsuit from Milwaukee officer Jose Lopez and former officer Alejandro Arce should keep moving forward. Both victims were wounded in a 2007 shooting incident with weapons that investigators said were traced to Badger Guns. Two other wounded Milwaukee police officers -- Graham Kunisch and Bryan Norberg -- filed a similar and separate lawsuit that's scheduled to have a trial in September.
A Marshfield man is accused of taking over $50,000 from his elderly father, and spending most of it on foreign lotteries. 74-year-old Delbert Weiler is free on a signature bond. He's scheduled to appear in Wood County Circuit Court next Tuesday on a felony charge of theft from a business setting. According to prosecutors, Delbert Weiler had the power-of-attorney for his 96-year-old father -- and he apparently thought he could take six-thousand-dollars a year from one of his father's accounts as reimbursement for work he had done for him. A woman told police last fall that she thought somebody was exploiting her father -- and her brother had allegedly put large amounts of money into an account for his own business. Officials said $30-to-40,000 of his father's money was entered in lotteries in Australia and Nigeria.
A central Wisconsin woman could go to prison for six years, after she admitted stealing almost a half-million dollars from a long-time employer. 40-year-old Michelle Walters of Athens pleaded guilty yesterday to three Marathon County charges of felony embezzlement. Four similar counts were dropped in a plea deal. She'll be sentenced June 13th. Walters was accused of stealing the money over a 20-year period from the Wausau retirement planning firm of Northwestern Wisconsin Associates. She has reportedly paid back about $100,000, or about a fifth of what she stole. Officials said Walters wrote unauthorized checks to a number of companies for her personal gain. No clients lost any retirement funds. Both sides recommend two years behind bars, plus four years of extended supervision for each of the three counts. Prosecutors want her locked up in a state prison, while the defense seeks county jail time plus probation.
Almost 40 farm animals have been found dead or malnourished on a farm in southwest Wisconsin. Iowa County authorities said ten cows and one hog died at the farm, located near Arena. Twenty-eight other animals were taken away, and they received new homes. Sheriff Steve Michek said it did not appear to be a matter of neglect. He tells WISC-TV in Madison that the farm couple apparently lacked the resources to care for the animals. Deputies are still investigating, and prosecutors will later decide if any charges should be filed. Investigators responded to the couple's farm on March first, after getting a tip that the animals were not being fed properly. Officials said they did not have enough water. The couple also has a horse-boarding facility. Investigators said those animals appeared to be well-cared for.
___________________________One of the state's largest annual farm shows is getting underway in Oshkosh. The 54th annual Wisconsin Public Service show runs today through Thursday at the EAA Grounds. It normally attracts around 20-thousand visitors. The Public Service utility in Green Bay started the farm show in 1960, to promote the use of electricity on the farm. Since then, the event has expanded into a showcase for the latest farm equipment, machinery, tools, and services. About 465 exhibitors are on hand. Farmers can get their energy management questions answered by WPS agricultural consultants. The show also features a three-day silent auction to benefit the Wisconsin FFA Foundation.