Morning State News Briefs: DOJ trying to reinstate murder conviction against Appleton manWisconsin News
-- The State Justice Department is trying to re-instate a murder conviction against an Appleton area man.
APPLETON - The State Justice Department is trying to re-instate a murder conviction against an Appleton area man.
29-year-old Michael Potts of the town of Grand Chute was originally given a life prison term for shooting Pierre Peeler to death in 2008 over a loud birthday party Peeler was having at an apartment. Outagamie County Circuit Judge Mark McGinnis threw out Potts’ conviction in February and ordered a new trial. The judge said Potts’s lawyer never sought testimony from witnesses who could have testified that a co-defendant actually shot Peeler. Keith Birr was found innocent of homicide last year. But one witness quoted Birr as saying that Potts only quote, “dumped” a racial epithet. And another woman heard Birr saying quote, “I will never admit to what I did.” Neither witnesses testified at Potts’ trial – and if they had done so, Judge McGinnis said the verdict could have been different. But a state attorney doesn’t agree, saying the remarks were hearsay – and they would not have been allowed as evidence at the trial. The Third District Appeals Court in Wausau will decide the matter. Potts’s lawyer has until October 10th to officially reply to the state’s re-instatement request.
A motorcyclist from the Fox Valley has died in a crash in central Wisconsin. Portage County authorities said 56-year-old Michael Lipske of Greenville failed to stop his motorcycle at a stop-sign – and he was hit by a semi-truck. It happened just after 10 yesterday morning, east of Wisconsin Rapids at Highways 34 and “P” in the Portage County town of Carson. The trucker was not hurt, and officials say they’re still investigating the mishap.
An emergency response crew from the federal EPA will start cleaning up an abandoned factory in Slinger today. Niphos Coatings has been vacant since 2008, but officials from the EPA’s Super-fund clean-up program said there were stacks of chemical drums. Coordinator Jaime Brown said the chemicals needed to be removed immediately, because they pose a threat to the surrounding neighborhood and three schools nearby. Village President Russell Brandt said he was pleased about the EPA’s decision to do an immediate clean-up. The building’s owner, Thomas Harju, stopped paying property taxes on the business in 2007 – and it’s been mostly empty since then. A judge ordered the building to be inspected last month – and a state emergency management staffer got sick from an exposure to chemical vapors in the building. The inspection turned up thousands-of-pounds of nickel sulfate – along with nitric acid, sodium cyanide, copper cyanide, and hydrochloric acid.
Offices throughout the State Capitol now have panic buttons, to help provide security for those who’ve felt harassed by the constant protestors in the building. The Administration Department said it installed 482 panic buttons in the offices of legislators, officials, and news agencies which use the Capitol’s press room. The cost is $103,000. The wireless panic buttons send alerts to Capitol Police, who will respond immediately when staffers feel intimidated. But Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor of Madison said there’s already been a false alarm, after a button was accidentally tripped during a routine committee meeting last week. She wondered if the Republican Walker administration was over-reacting. Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend – who was chased by protestors outside the Capitol last March – said he didn’t need a panic button now. But he said it’s unfortunate that taxpayers must cover the tab. Grothman told the Journal Sentinel quote, “It’s too bad we can’t directly bill the out-of-control protestors who caused this expense.” The protestors have been a fixture at the Capitol for a year-and-a-half, spurred by the law which virtually ended most public union bargaining.
A State Capitol protestor said police went to his workplace to give him two citations, apparently to intimidate him. And another protestor said the officers were trying to get him fired from his job. Bart Munger of Milton was among four Capitol protestors who were given seven citations on Monday for displaying signs, and protesting without the permits required under a long-time Capitol policy that’s just now being enforced. The new Capitol Police chief, David Erwin, says he’s cracking down on protestors who intimidate workers and visitors – and his officers started issuing citations last week. Now, officers no longer issue tickets on the spot – and they’re serving them at the protestors’ homes. Spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the change was designed to avoid confrontations in the Capitol and to keep order. But Munger – a maintenance worker at UW-Madison – told the Wisconsin State Journal that police tried to intimidate him by showing up at his job. Fellow protestor Arthur Kohl-Riggs said it was a “clear case of harassment,” possibly to get Munger fired. Kohl-Riggs also said officers are trying to avoid being caught on camera giving out the tickets, because they know it would get many upset. Meanwhile, more protestors are showing their displeasure by showing up at the daily noon-time sing-along at the Capitol by the Solidarity Singers. Over 100 people showed up yesterday – far more than before the new crackdown.
A nursing home in northeast Wisconsin is closing, at least until a labor dispute gets resolved. State officials say the Whispering Oaks Care Center in Peshtigo is voluntarily shutting down – and the center is moving its 26 residents to other nursing homes in the area. The state Health Services Department says it’s been monitoring the center, after getting financially-related complaints last year. In a statement, Whispering Oaks said it’s shutting down because of a threatened work stoppage by its nursing staff and other employees. And the home said it was the “correct action” to move its residents to other nursing facilities until the labor dispute can be resolved.
The foundation that runs the Ten Chimneys estate in Waukesha County has a new leader, after his post was vacant for eight months. Randy Bryant has been named the foundation’s new president and CEO. He replaces Sean Malone, who left in January to become the new CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Bryant used to be an executive at Motorola, and has chaired the board of the Milwaukee County Historical Society. The Ten Chimneys Foundation was established in 1996 to help save the historic estate of the late theater legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. It’s located in Genesee Depot, and the foundation runs a number of programs and events there. Broadway star Joel Grey served as a master teacher in a fellowship program in July to train aspiring actors. “MASH” and "West Wing" star Alan Alda will be the master teacher in next year’s program.
Wisconsin’s DNR has told the Ojibwe band of Indians that it has “deep concern” about a tribal plan to kill an elk for ceremonial purposes. The Great Lakes Indian Fish-and-Wildlife Commission recently approved a permit to kill an elk – similar to the way Indians kill deer and bear on non-tribal lands for ceremonial reasons. But there are well-established hunting seasons for deer-and-bear, while the state’s still trying to establish an elk herd – and it has not approved a hunt for them yet. In a letter to the Indian commission and the Voigt Inter-Tribal Task Force, DNR deputy secretary Matt Moroney raised public safety and biology issues. And he was concerned that his agency was not given a chance to provide input. Indians have treaty rights to take fish-and-game off their reservations, but the DNR still manages those resources. Agency lands’ administrator Kurt Thiede said the tribes believe they have full legal standing to kill an elk – but he’s not so sure, because a hunt has never been set up for those animals. There’s been talk of such a season, as the state considers importing more elk from Kentucky and setting up two centers for about 400 elk in the areas of Ashland and Jackson counties. The state has about 185 elk now, and the DNR’s long-term goal is to have 10 times that many.
A 40-year-old man was killed yesterday in a head-on traffic crash in Cottage Grove, east of Madison. Authorities said Brian Wiest of Cottage Grove was driving a pickup truck on County Trunk “N” when an oncoming cargo van crossed the center line and hit the truck head-on. It happened just after six o’clock yesterday morning. Wiest died later in the day at UW Hospital in Madison. The van driver, a 23-year-old Edgerton man, was taken to the same hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
A ticket sold in California won the Mega Millions’ jackpot last night. It matched all six numbers to win $120-million. Six players won the quarter-million-dollar second prize, but none were from Wisconsin. Tickets sold in New Lisbon and Lomira each won $10,000 by matching four regular numbers plus the Mega Ball. Last night’s numbers were 5, 11, 20, 33, and 36. The Mega Ball was 11, and the Megaplier was three. The jackpot was above $100-million for the second time since a world record $656-million-dollar Mega Millions’ jackpot was won in March. It goes back to $12-million for the next drawing on Friday night. Meanwhile, Powerball has a $110-million-jackpot on the line tonight.
Wisconsin is one of four states chosen to take part in a program to help people detect diabetes, and manage the disease better. The Diabetes Leadership Initiative seeks to highlight and improve existing state pilot programs aimed at fighting the disorder – in which patients lose their body’s natural ability to create insulin. In the Wisconsin project, experts in the diabetes program are working with three state family practice clinics to improve the care of diabetes-related kidney and heart problems. One of the goals is to help patients understand their test results, so they can slow the progression of diabetic complications like heart attacks, blindness, kidney problems, and amputations. Type-One Diabetes affects children. Type-Two is the adult diabetes in which the obese are often afflicted. About one-of-every-12 Americans are diabetic – and if current trends continue, one-in-three adults might have the condition by 2050. The leadership program said the direct health costs of diabetes in Wisconsin were just over four-billion-dollars in 2009, and indirect costs totaled just over two-billion. Diabetes can be controlled with diet-and-exercise, and with medicines to help control blood glocuse and blood pressure levels.
Officials at Madison East High School say a teacher who died of a heart attack yesterday was found in his classroom by a student. Kjell Erik Anderson was an aviation teacher at East High School and taught band at Sherman Middle School. The student found Anderson unresponsive in his classroom before school had started. That student contacted a staff member, who then call 911. Madison schools made a formal announcement about Anderson’s death earlier today, offering grief counseling services to students and staff at the two schools.
A Marathon County judge sends a convicted sex offender to prison for 15 years. Thirty-six year of Jimmy Garcia was convicted of having sex with underage girls while he was HIV positive. He pleaded no contest to three charges of second degree reckless safety last month. Garcia reportedly told one 15-year old girl he didn’t have any sexually transmitted diseases. That girl didn’t know he had HIV until a neighbor told her. Additional charges of the sexual assault of a minor were dropped as a part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Authorities in two states are searching for a man suspected of shooting a Janesville woman to death. Investigators say Lori Daniels was shot in the head while riding in a vehicle on Interstate 39/90 near South Beloit, Illinois. The shooting was reported from inside that vehicle at about 2 a.m. Sunday. A South Beloit police officer spotted the Ford Explorer with Wisconsin license plates and started chasing at speeds reaching 100 miles per hour. Several officers joined the pursuit which ended in Rockford, Illinois. The suspect vehicle crashed in a fence and the man authorities were looking for ran away. He reportedly fired at least one shot at the officers who were chasing him.
A man has been ordered to stand trial for allegedly killing a woman who rejected his romantic advances during a visit to Door County last month. 35-year-old Brian Cooper of Plainfield, Illinois had a preliminary hearing today in Sturgeon Bay, on two homicide charges and a count of third-degree sexual assault. Prosecutors said Cooper took 22-year-old Alisha Bromfield to a wedding, with the idea of striking up some romance himself. But when she said no, authorities said Cooper choked the woman and then sexually assaulted her, killing both Bromfield and her unborn child. Investigators said Cooper tried killing himself before he called police to turn himself in. Officials said Cooper was not the baby’s father. He’s scheduled to enter pleas to his three charges a week from Thursday.