Tuesday State News Briefs: Investigation launched in Milwaukee on police strip-searchesWisconsin News
-- Milwaukee prosecutors have started a John Doe investigation, to see if criminal charges are warranted against police officers who did strip searches on drug suspects.
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee prosecutors have started a John Doe investigation, to see if criminal charges are warranted against police officers who did strip searches on drug suspects.
Seven officers and the sergeant of an anti-gang unit were stripped of their police powers earlier this month, and were put on desk duty. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has said that officers allegedly violated suspects’ civil rights by conducting rectal searches to look for illegal drugs. The chief said the department did not begin an investigation until last week, after sporadic complaints had spiked. The Journal Sentinel said Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner will conduct the John Doe probe, in which prosecutors can secretly gather evidence to decide whether to file criminal charges. Attorney Jonathan Cermele said yesterday that he represents several of the officers – but he refuses to say whether or not they’ve been called before the judge. Flynn said last week that the police department’s investigation is continuing, and he asked victims to come forward if they have not already done so. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the allegations are serious. And he said the officers should be punished if they something wrong – or vindicated if they didn’t.
A 16-year-old boy has pleaded insanity to starting a fire that caused two-million-dollars’ damage to a Catholic school in northeast Wisconsin. Vincent Enneper of Oconto Falls pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease yesterday, after he waived a preliminary hearing in Oconto County Circuit Court. He’ll now undergo a mental evaluation by a court-appointed examiner, and the judge wants the results by May 11th. Enneper is charged as an adult with arson, burglary, and attempted arson. Prosecutors said the boy claimed he was bored when he entered Saint Anthony School in Oconto Falls to start setting fires on February 21st. Officials said one of several small fires got out of control – and the damage forced the school to move classes to a nearby church. The attempted arson charge is connected with a 2006 fire which Enneper allegedly set. It caused minor damage at Saint Anthony Church, which is next to the school. The church escaped damage in last month’s fire.
Just over a-third of Wisconsin’s eligible voters are expected to take part in a presidential primary that could narrow the field of Republican candidates. The Government Accountability Board has projected a 35-percent turnout for the primary, which takes a place a week from today. Director Kevin Kennedy based the figure on the turnout from four years ago, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were in a hard-fought Democratic race. This year, Obama is the lone Democrat as he seeks re-election. And Mitt Romney has a solid lead over three Republican challengers in the convention delegates he’s picked up so far. Second-place Rick Santorum is the most active campaigner by far in the Badger State, camping out here last weekend and planning two more appearances tonight. The Philadelphia Daily News says the former Pennsylvania senator may be trying to do what Ronald Reagan did in 1976 – make it all the way to the convention as a distant second, and use it as a stepping stone to winning the presidency four years later. Romney and fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul also plan Wisconsin appearances in the next week. Vice President Joe Biden is due in Milwaukee on Thursday for a Democratic fund-raiser. Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman will also be on next week’s Wisconsin GOP primary ballot, even though they dropped out of the race some time ago.
There are no presidential primaries on this Tuesday – and that means Wisconsin is the candidates’ next target, along with Maryland and Washington D.C. All three have primaries a week from today. But Wisconsin is considered to have the closest race among the four Republicans who are still in it. Rick Santorum was leading in several polls until a Rasmussen survey last week had Mitt Romney pulling ahead. Santorum is due back in Wisconsin tonight in Beaver Dam and Janesville, after he made five appearances last weekend. Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are due in later this week. And in the meantime, Gingrich is sending his wife Callista on a swing of at least nine Wisconsin cities today through Thursday. She was born in Whitehall in western Wisconsin. Romney, meanwhile, is campaigning in California – and he’ll be on NBC’s “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno this evening.
Wisconsin’s second-largest city will lose its public school superintendent in just over a year. Dan Nerad of Madison said yesterday he would step down sometime by June of 2013. He did not say exactly when. The announcement came just a few hours before the School Board was planning to decide whether his extend his contract to 2014. The 60-year-old Nerad became Madison’s top school official in 2008, after he held the same job in Green Bay where he was credited for reducing the district’s achievement gap. Nerad recently introduced a $105-million plan to raise achievement levels of minority and low-income students. He said the community’s division over closing that gap was a factor – and he wished he would have done more to create a broader base of consensus in serving kids. The Wisconsin State Journal said the School Board was split over Nerad’s performance – and in a recent evaluation, four members rated him as being below proficient. Nerad said he’s not sure what’s in his future, but he’ll try to continue his work as an educator.
Racine Journal-Times editor Steve Lovejoy has been named the first winner of the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. The UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics announced the winner yesterday. The award used to be known as the Wisconsin Commitment to Journalism Ethics. But it was recently renamed in honor Shadid, a UW graduate and New York Times foreign correspondent who died last month of an asthma attack in Syria. Lovejoy has been the editor of Racine’s daily newspaper since 2007, and has been its news editor and opinion page editor. He’ll receive his award April 13th at the UW’s fourth annual Journalism Ethics Conference.
Wisconsin’s average gas price stayed just below four-dollars a gallon this morning. The Triple-“A” said the statewide average for unleaded regular was $3.99-point-one – a tenth-of-a-cent lower than yesterday but 41-cents more than a month ago. Meanwhile, the Triple-“A” said the Milwaukee area set another all-time record price this morning at $4.20-point-eight. Green Bay was the next-highest at $3.94. And La Crosse still has the state’s cheapest fuel at $3.78 – a penny higher than yesterday. Experts say Milwaukee’s prices are so high because the area must change to a cleaner-burning fuel which can only be used in the spring-and-summer months. John Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute says the summer blend requires more expensive ingredients to meet the federal government’s air quality standards for Metro Milwaukee. And he says it’s not an easy change for refineries and their storage facilities. Oil industry analyst Jim Ritterbusch of Galena, Illinois expects prices nationally to start falling in the next 2-to-3 weeks. But for now, federal energy officials say drivers are feeling the pain of soaring crude oil prices which are now at all-time highs.
The Pennsylvania state House of Representatives has voted to declare 2012 as “The Year of the Bible” – and Madison’s Freedom from Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit to stop that. The group says the measure violates the U.S. Constitution and its ban on laws that “respect an establishment of religion.” The suit says Pennsylvania’s Year-of-the-Bible resolution sends a message that quote, “Christian beliefs are more legitimate in the eyes of the state than other systems of belief and thought.” Among other things, the Madison group has asked a federal judge to rule that the state government is not Judeo-Christian, and to have the defendants stop publishing-and-distributing their resolution. Its main sponsor, Pennsylvania Representative Rick Saccone, is one of three defendants along with the House clerk and parliamentarian. Saccone, a Republican, says the suit has no merit. He said God has always been a part of government, and to deny that is to deny history.
About 20 Wisconsin Army Reservists returned yesterday to their home base near Green Bay, after they spent the last nine months in Afghanistan. Around 100 members of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion have returned in waves to the U-S since last week. Yesterday’s group was the first to make it back to Wisconsin. They first had to be debriefed at Camp Atterbury near Indianapolis. The unit helped other troops re-build Afghanistan as part of a Provincial Re-construction Team. The unit has soldiers from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and four other states as far away as California. Lieutenant Colonel Joel Smith said the unit had two members still in Afghanistan – and they’re expected to be back on American soil by the end of this week.
A burial service will be held today for a 31-year-old Arizona police officer from Milwaukee who lost a battle with brain cancer. Brian Kehrein was an officer in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria for the last five years. He also spent eight years as an officer in several Milwaukee area communities. Kehrein died last Tuesday. He leaves behind a wife and a baby boy. The Peoria Police Officers’ Association has been raising money to support the officer’s family.
The first of 12 couples will be sent home tonight on “Dancing With the Stars,” but Packers’ receiver Donald Driver should be safe. He and Peta Murgatroyd got better scores than in the season premiere a week ago on ABC. The three judges each gave Driver an “eight,” as he and Murgatroyd did a sharp quick-step to the James Blunt song “Stay the Night.” They were the 10th of the 12 couples to dance, and judge Len Goodman said they were “up there with the best” he had seen to that point. Goodman also said he reviewed the video-tape of last week’s show, and apologized for not giving Driver more than a “seven” for the cha-cha he danced in his opener.
Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot has risen to $363-million. It jumped by seven-million-dollars yesterday due to strong ticket sales in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the country. It’s the largest jackpot since the Wisconsin Lottery had its first Mega Millions’ drawing on Groundhog Day of 2010. Meanwhile, the Lottery is still waiting to find out who won a million-dollars in the previous Mega Millions’ drawing last Friday night. The ticket was sold in Mosinee at an “R”-Store, a convenience store chain in north central Wisconsin. The Badger State had just over 22,000 winners last Friday. About 10,000 tickets won two-dollars just by matching the Mega Ball. To win the jackpot, players must match all five regular numbers plus the Mega Ball. The odds of that are one-in-176-million.