Wednesday State News Briefs: Court hearing held on wolf huntWisconsin News
-- A court hearing got underway in Madison this morning on a lawsuit to shoot down Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt.
MADISON - A court hearing got underway in Madison this morning on a lawsuit to shoot down Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt.
Animal rights’ and environmental groups contend that the season is illegal, because it puts hunting dogs in danger of being killed by the wolves. The Natural Resources Board agreed to let hunting dogs track down wolves for the hunters. Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson asked why the DNR did not put restrictions on the dogs – and Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Hirsch said it was because the Legislature did not give the agency the authority to protect dogs. Lawmakers and the governor approved a bill this past spring to create the inaugural wolf hunt. That was after the Obama White House removed wolves from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan from the federal endangered species list. Today’s hearing was meant to decide if a temporary injunction should be issued to halt the wolf season while the lawsuit is being considered. The wolf hunt is scheduled to begin in mid-October, and run through next February.
An ultra-light plane crashed this morning near Walworth in far southern Wisconsin. The craft went down just after nine o’clock in a cornfield near the runway of a private landing strip. The owner of the strip, Barbara Ingalls, said the male pilot was taken to a hospital. There was no immediate word on the man’s condition.
UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation made almost $58-million last year from the licensing of its research findings. That’s the 10th-highest among 157 schools surveyed by the Association of University Technology Managers. The UW and the Alumni Foundation spent a combined $1.1 billion dollars on research last year. It resulted in four business start-ups, and 156 patents being issued. Nationally, one-point-eight billion dollars were made from licensing agreements – a slight increase from the year before. UW officials called it a true investment in Wisconsin. Vice president Michael Morgan said the UW is part of the fuel that drives the Badger State forward.
It’s been three-and-a-half weeks since Oak Creek police lieutenant Brian Murphy was shot-and-wounded in the Sikh Temple massacre – and he’s still not able to talk. Federal investigators want to interview the 51-year-old Murphy. But Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards says Murphy has some throat damage, and doctors want it to heal. But Murphy can still type, and the chief says the department has given him an electronic device to use. Plus, he can whisper a little bit. Murphy was shot up to nine times by Wade Michael Page at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August fifth. The chief said Murphy’s body armor managed to prevent three other bullets from wounding him. Edwards said Murphy has a long way to go – and he’ll most likely have permanent injuries. But the chief said quote, “From where he started, I truly believe he’s here for a reason.” Three others were wounded and six worshippers were killed. Edwards also said he believes that Page was motivated by hate – but he did not specifically have the Sikh Temple in mind when he planned his attack. In the chief’s words, “There was no specific group he was after, or disliked more than the other. He could have gone past a Korean church, a black Baptist church, a Muslim church. Anyone different, it’s a personal hate. He just hated.”
One of Milwaukee’s two makers of mining equipment is reducing its sales-and-profit forecasts for the second time this year. Joy Global says its earnings for its fiscal year will be at a top range of seven-dollars-and-20-cents a share. That’s down from the 7.45 maximum it predicted in May. The figures do not include re-structuring costs. Total sales are now expected to be five-point-five-five billion dollars, down from the five-point-seven billion it projected earlier. Joy Global CEO Mike Sutherlin says a slower demand for mining equipment in China has quote, “deteriorated international markets more quickly and severely than previously expected.” In the meantime, Joy Global still reports positive numbers for its most recent quarter. Net income rose by 12-percent to 193-and-a-half million dollars. Earnings were 21-cents higher at 1.82-per-share. And Joy Global’s sales of P&H and Joy mining equipment rose by 22-percent from a year ago, to almost $1.4 billion dollars in its last fiscal quarter.
UW-Oshkosh is getting a million federal dollars to try-and-reduce bacteria levels at eight Wisconsin beaches, mostly along Lake Michigan. The federal EPA says experts at Oshkosh will re-design the beaches in an effort to make it safer to swim there. The list includes the Grant Park beach in South Milwaukee, as well as beaches in Kenosha, Manitowoc, Algoma, and Marinette along the Bay of Green Bay. The funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – a long-range, multi-million dollar effort to clean up the Great Lakes through a wide variety of projects. Also, beaches in Michigan will share another one-point-six million dollars in federal clean-up funds.
A public hearing will be held at the State Capitol next week on a plan to have taxpayers help invest in new high-tech businesses, with the goal of attracting more high-paid jobs. A special Senate committee headed by Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen has invited business and investment officials to express their ideas about what’s now being called “investment capital” legislation. The public can also comment at the hearing, which is set for a week from tomorrow at 9:30 at the Capitol. Efforts to pass a $400-million venture capital bill failed in the most recent legislative session, amid concerns about the use of out-of-state capital firms to help distribute the money. A similar effort in 1999 resulted in millions of tax dollars that were unaccounted for, while generating only 202 jobs. Officials say they’ve learned a lot since then, and they know how to prevent such waste. Recently, Governor Scott Walker told the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to work on a consensus for a new capital funding bill that would cover a larger scope of business growth funding.
A former town treasurer near Appleton has struck a plea deal to charging $28,000 on government credit cards for personal expenses. 50-year-old Erica Siewert pleaded no contest yesterday in Outagamie County Circuit Court to three embezzlement charges and three counts of misconduct in public office. Eight similar counts were dropped. And prosecutors said they would ask the judge for a six-month jail term plus probation when Siewert is sentenced on October eighth. Siewert is a former treasurer in the town of Dale, west of Appleton. She and former town clerk Marcia Kelly were both charged in late June, after an audit showed that both had used town credit cards for personal reasons. The embezzlement dated back to 2006. The 67-year-old Kelly pleaded innocent yesterday to 33 counts of theft and misconduct. She’s scheduled to go on trial December fourth. Authorities said Kelly took almost $50,000 – much of it for gambling, hotel stays, gift cards, and payments for her phone bills. Both Kelly and Siewert resigned their posts.
A central Wisconsin woman has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison, for driving drunk the wrong way on an Interstate while being chased by officers. 62-year-old Shirley Hogrefe of Plainfield pleaded no contest to reckless endangerment and two counts of causing injury by drunk driving. Five other charges were dropped in a plea deal. Hogrefe will have her driver’s license suspended for three years – and for three years after that, she’ll have to breathe into a sobriety tube to start her vehicle. Authorities said Hogrefe drove the wrong way on Interstate-39 in March in Portage County. She was driving at up to 100-miles-an-hour, and two squad cars were among several vehicles that had to swerve to avoid hitting her. Officials said she stopped only after colliding with several vehicles. Hogrefe broke a foot, and another person had minor injuries.
A juror who skipped out on deliberations in Milwaukee to take a family vacation in Cancun was fined $300 for that decision. 20-year-old Ivana Samardzic of Greenfield said she didn’t know all the requirements about her jury service, and she didn’t mean to show disrespect. But she saved a long time for a nine-day trip to Mexico with her family this month, and she wasn’t going to miss it. An hour-long court hearing was held yesterday, soon after Samardzic returned home. She didn’t know if it was worth it to not complete her jury requirement, but she did have a good time in Cancun. Still, Samardzic said she knew it was wrong to leave. During the hearing, a court clerk said Samardzic should have mentioned her vacation when the jury was being selected. Circuit Judge J.D. Watts said the woman was selfish and offended her fellow jurors. But still, he chose not to send her to jail for criminal contempt, and he only assessed a civil forfeiture instead. Samardzic missed a second day of deliberations in a shooting case involving Spartacus Outlaw. He was convicted of possession a gun as a convicted felon – but on an 8-3 vote, the jurors could not decide if he was guilty of reckless injury.
A six-year-old Fitchburg girl has been released from the hospital after she was stabbed seven times, allegedly by her mother. Police said Adrianna Harmon is now under supervision by the Dane County Human Services agency. Her 30-year-old mother Tasha is charged with attempted homicide in the August 13th incident. Police said the woman stabbed the daughter and then herself at their home. Prosecutors said the mother claimed to hear voices, and had conducted a “spiritual cleaning” before stabbing the youngster and puncturing one of her lungs.
State Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith says he “categorically and unequivocally” denies having an affair with his agency’s top attorney. He issued a written statement yesterday, the same day the attorney’s husband was ordered to stand trial for allegedly trying to kill her over e-mails that reportedly hinted an affair. 59-year-old Andrew Spear is charged in Dane County with attempted homicide and seven other counts. Prosecutors said he beat her, doused her with gasoline, and tried to set her on fire at his woodworking shop in Madison earlier this month. Spear had confronted his wife about her e-mails with Smith. But in his statement, Smith called Mary Spear a life-long friend – and he hired her in January only because of her knowledge of the health insurance industry. Smith, who’s married with four daughters, said he has never had a relationship with Mary Spear beyond friendship. At yesterday’s court hearing, police detective Jamie Grinn was the only witness – and he testified about what other witnesses told him. Such hearsay evidence is allowed at preliminary hearings under a new state law. Defense lawyer Brian Brophy wanted to subpoena Mary Spear to testify. But Circuit Judge David Flanagan wouldn’t allow it. He said her testimony was not necessary in deciding if there was enough evidence to order a trial. Mary Spear filed for divorce last week. Her husband’s bond was reduced yesterday from a half-million dollars to $100,000. If he’s freed, Andrew Spear will not be allowed to see his wife.
The FDA has confirmed that an Indiana cantaloupe farm is the source of at least some of the salmonella poisoning that made four Wisconsinites sick. Spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said salmonella collected at Chamberlain Farms in Owensville matched a DNA fingerprint of the strain made 178 people sick in 21 states. Sixty-two were hospitalized, and two Kentucky residents died in the outbreak. Burgess said officials are still looking to see if there are other sources of salmonella involved. As she put it, “We’re still assessing the full scope of this.” Indiana health officials said samples were collected from a number of cantaloupe farms in the southwest part of the Hoosier State, and the FDA is still analyzing those samples. The owner of Chamberlain Farms said last week that it stopped making and distributing cantaloupe on August 16th. That was when the FDA first told him that his fruit could be tainted. Burgess says the FDA is still urging consumers to find out where their cantaloupe was produced before eating it – and if they can’t get an answer, they should throw it out.
Criminal charges were filed yesterday against a man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend at a Wausaukee gas station before wounding himself. 55-year-old Richard Heyer of Crivitz is charged in Marinette County with first-degree intentional homicide, and illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Authorities said Heyer shot 51-year-old Ann Schueller once in the back on Sunday, while she was working at a Citgo station on Wausaukee’s main street. Heyer was in critical but stable condition at a Green Bay hospital at last word. He’s expected to make his first court appearance once he’s released from the hospital. Earlier this year, Schueller sought a restraining order to make Heyer stay away from her – but a judge rejected it, saying he was not enough of a threat. At a news conference yesterday, Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve said his officers were never called to any domestic disturbances at the couple’s home.
Wisconsin banks continue to heal from the Great Recession. The FDIC reported this afternoon that only 22 of the state’s 271 banks lost money from April-through-June. That’s down from 38 banks which lost money in the same quarter a year ago. Nationally, it was the 12th straight quarter that banks had year-to-year increases in their earnings – and loan balances grew throughout the country for the fourth time in the last five quarters. Associated of Green Bay, Wisconsin’s largest home-grown banking firm, made the most money in the second quarter with almost 52-and-a-half million dollars. Guaranty Bank of Brown Deer lost the most, $11-million.
A Milwaukee man struck a plea deal today in the killing a close friend in a traffic crash, just hours after the victim’s mother died at the hands of a hit-and-run driver. 21-year-old Xavier Hughes pleaded no contest to homicide by drunken driving. Three other charges were dropped. Authorities said Hughes was driving Thomas Olson to a hospital to see his mother in late April, when their car lost control and crashed. Olson died before he could get to the hospital – but his mother was not there because she had already died. Mary Jane Moore was struck just outside a West Allis tavern early that morning. The driver, 32-year-old Jesse Steinmetz of West Allis, is scheduled to go on trial in October on a charge of fatal hit-and-run.