WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Waupun policeman pleas innocent to statewide crime spree
GREEN LAKE - A former Waupun police lieutenant has pleaded innocent to seven charges as part of a crime spree last summer in opposite corners of Wisconsin.
44-year-old Bradley Young was arraigned in Green Lake County on charges that include vehicle theft and three burglaries. A judge refused to consider reducing Young's 50-thousand-dollar bond. The status of the Green Lake case will be reviewed May 12th. Prosecutors said Young broke into grocery stores in Berlin and Markesan, burglarized a restaurant and stole a pick-up truck in Green Lake, crashed the truck while being chased in Barron County, stole a second vehicle near Rice Lake, and entered a cabin near Spooner where he gave himself up while being surrounded by officers. A status conference is set May second on Burnett County charges of burglary and theft. A plea hearing is set for May 28th on his Barron County charges of vehicle theft and eluding an officer.
A 35-year-old man has been sentenced to two and a half years in a federal prison for stealing almost a half-million dollars from a religious group. Milwaukee Federal Judge Charles Clevert ordered Michael Lowstetter to pay $453,000 in restitution. He stole the money from Shepherds Baptist Ministries of Union Grove from 2009-2012. Lowstetter was a vice president for the group, which cares for the developmentally-disabled. His attorney wrote that Lowstetter bought a second home before he could sell his first, and he was quote, "trapped" by the real estate downturn that was part of the Great Recession. Officials said Lowstetter kept stealing money after he caught up with his bills. Last fall, the Washington Post cited this case as one of 22 in Wisconsin in which charities lost millions of dollars to inside thieves since 2008.
A Fond du Lac woman is free on a signature bond, after she appeared in court today for the poisonings of two family puppies. A judge told 30-year-old Amanda Farr not to have any contact with animals. Prosecutors said Farr knew that her son had poured bleach on two family puppies, and tossed one of them into a Dumpster last month. The boy reportedly did it because one of the pets was biting at his feet. Both dogs are recovering at the Fond du Lac County Humane Society -- although one of them reportedly has permanent lung damage. A third puppy in the home was not hurt in the incident.
Four Milwaukee funeral homes will voluntarily pay the federal government, and enter a compliance program, after failing to give itemized price lists to consumers. Federal law requires the price breakdowns, so grieving families can compare costs and make sure they don't get forced into buying features they don't need or want. The Federal Trade Commission said it caught the four Milwaukee funeral homes violating its rules last year during an undercover investigation. The agency did not name the facilities. Media reports said violators face up to 16-thousand-dollars in fines for each violation. To avoid legal action, the FTC said the Milwaukee funeral homes agreed to take part in a three-year program. The National Funeral Directors Association runs the program, and gets administrative fees from violators. The FTC said it inspected 124 funeral homes in eight states last year -- and 32 of them failed to disclose proper pricing data.
The Solidarity Singers who still face citations for gathering without permits at the State Capitol have picked up an interesting ally. Members of Moscow's Pussy Riot band have asked Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to drop the pending cases among the 400-plus protestors arrested last summer. The Voice Project released a video today that includes segments of the arrests, and comments from two members of Pussy Riot -- the group that has gained notoriety for protesting oppressive rule from Russia's government, and going to jail for it. The Solidarity Singers have been protesting Governor Scott Walker and his limits on public union bargaining ever since those limits were passed in 2011. The state Justice Department did not immediately comment on the video, which you can find on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Web site among other places.
For the first time today, Governor Scott Walker said he would be open to limits on early absentee voting. The Republican Walker previously said that a series of election bills being considered by the Senate today were not on his radar -- and he was more concerned about creating jobs and boosting the economy. However, Walker told reporters he would look at the early voting restrictions if they pass the Legislature. The state Senate was considering a bill today to ban early voting on nights and weekends -- which Madison and Milwaukee both allowed in 2012. Republicans say smaller communities don't have the resources to expand early voting that much, and the bigger cities should fall into line. Democrats say the bill discourages certain groups from voting, including minorities.
Governor Scott Walker says he wants voters to have to show photo ID's by the November elections. Today, the Republican Walker told reporters he would call the Legislature into a special session to pass an ID law that follows what the courts end up deciding. Walker calls it the most pressing election-related issue that Wisconsin faces. The governor and majority Republican lawmakers approved the photo ID voting requirement in 2011 -- but it's only been used once before the courts temporarily struck it down. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently heard arguments on two challenges to the ID law, and it's not known when the justices might make a ruling. Also, a federal judge is considering two other challenges to the Wisconsin mandate. Last year, the Republican-controlled state Assembly passed a modified which it thought would be constitutional. But the GOP-controlled state Senate decided to wait on the measure until the courts have their say. Republicans say voter ID is needed to curb voter fraud that Democrats say doesn't exist.
The Wisconsin Senate was scheduled to start acting on about 50 bills late this morning. Some major initiatives are on the docket, as the current session is close to wrapping up. They include the proposed ending of the mandatory 180-day school year, although required class hours would remain. Other bills would end early night-and-weekend voting just before elections -- allow lobbyists to give special interest checks to incumbent lawmakers a month-and-a-half earlier than they do now -- and force plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits to disclose the businesses they intend to go after. Among the other Senate bills up today would create a loan program to help middle-income people deal with high propane prices -- and a bill addressing concerns over weight limits for farm equipment on Wisconsin roads. Among other things, the measure would increase weight limits, redefine implements of husbandry, and create a class of ag commercial vehicles. A state Senate panel endorsed the measure last week, as five Assembly members drafted their own measure to make sure something passes on the subject before the session ends. Also, senators are taking up bills to allow the private Marquette University to create its own public police force. Another bill would set up a new panel to oversee Milwaukee County's mental health system, removing those duties from the County Board.
The state agency that regulates Wisconsin lawyers has filed a complaint against Milwaukee's Gerald Boyle. The Office of Lawyer Regulation is accusing Boyle in matters that involve two clients. In one case, Boyle allegedly took $65,000 from a Beatles' memorabilia collector in Waukesha who was trying to collect damages from galleries who sold counterfeit John Lennon drawings. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Boyle never placed a written fee agreement on paper -- and he allegedly proceeded to miss two important deadlines under the statute of limitations. In the other case, Boyle is accused of violating professional rules by placing almost 20-thousand dollars in advance fees into his firm's operating account instead of a client trust account. The complaint said Boyle has a relatively clean history that only involves reprimands from 2002, '09, and 2012. Boyle became famous as the lawyer who defended Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the early 1990's.
Tom Ament has died. He spent a decade as the Milwaukee County executive before a pension scandal did him in. He was 76. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Ament has kept a very low profile in recent years -- and his friends said he was suffering from cancer in recent months. Ament spent 34 years in Milwaukee County government, where he played a role in building the Brewers' Miller Park stadium and the Calatrava wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum. However, Ament became best-known throughout Wisconsin as the architect of a pension deal which the County Board quietly approved in 2001. It awarded millions of dollars in lump sum pensions to Milwaukee County officials and employees. Once taxpayers learned about it, Ament retired just before a recall election could be held against him. Seven county board members were recalled later. Scott Walker became the county executive right after that -- and it laid the foundation for Walker's successful bid for Wisconsin governor in 2010.
The Manitowoc Company plans to move production of its Indigo ice machines to Mexico. The firm said this morning that about 150 jobs would be phased out at Manitowoc over the next two years. By making ice machines in Monterrey, Mexico, the Manitowoc Company says it would improve the company's service to customers in Latin America as well as the U.S. Product development-and-engineering would remain in Manitowoc -- along with marketing, finance, and service operations for Manitowoc's ice products.
_________________________________Rotary clubs in the Fox Valley are helping fellow Rotarians in Peru provide food to the poor in that South American country. Two Oshkosh clubs and one in Fond du Lac have resolved cultural differences to work with a Rotary Club in Lima Peru to make over 660 gallons of soy milk each day. The milk by-product is used to make high-protein bread, and both those items go to help the poor. Bill Thimke of the Oshkosh Southwest Rotary Club said there was a lot of trial and error involved in making something like this happen. Rotarians tell the Fond du Lac Reporter that they've overcome setbacks by hearing what the local residents in Peru want, and staying involved to meet their desires. Thimke says he's seen the faces of Peruvian youngsters when they get their milk. He said quote, "You can't get that kind of satisfaction anywhere else."