Morning State News Briefs: Twelve percent of corn already harvestedWisconsin News
-- Twelve-percent of Wisconsin’s corn-for-grain has been harvested. That’s about nine-percent above the norm for this time of year.
Twelve-percent of Wisconsin’s corn-for-grain has been harvested. That’s about nine-percent above the norm for this time of year.
The state’s corn is at a much higher maturity stage than normal – but weak stalks and ear droppings are causing problems throughout the state as drought conditions continue. Chopping for silage is 84-percent finished. Normally, only about half of the chopping is complete by now. Fourteen percent of Wisconsin’s soybeans are harvested. Yields vary greatly. Parts of the Badger State had frost and temperatures in the 20’s in the past week – but the frost was not said to be much of a problem, considering the maturity of the crops. Only 22-percent of farm fields have adequate moisture. 46-percent are short, and 32-percent very short.
Republicans who’ve promised to dig up voter fraud have not found very much of it. The Associated Press said that in Colorado and Florida, only one-tenth of one-percent of all registered voters were found to have cast ballots illegally. In Florida, election officials were asked to determine how many registered voters were not U.S. citizens. The state checked 180,000 people in a federal database that determines a person’s legal residency – and only 207 were found not to be citizens. In Colorado, Secretary-of-State Scott Gessler initially said almost 12,000 non-citizens were on the voter rolls – but the actual number was just 141. And of those, just 35 voted in the past. In North Carolina, 637 registered voters were suspected to be non-citizens – but officials later found only 12 instances in which a non-citizen had voted. In Wisconsin, former state Senate Elections Committee chair Mary Lazich of New Berlin asked officials in July to remove non-citizens from the state’s voter rolls. Reid Magney of the Government Accountability Board says his agency is considering the request, and what it would involve. In the meantime, Wisconsin’s photo ID law for voting remains suspended while the state challenges two court rulings which struck down the mandate.
A Madison man has pleaded guilty to reduced charges in the killing of his landlord. 25-year-old Edgar Salinas-Leal struck a plea deal with Dane County prosecutors. Among other things, he avoided a life prison sentence by having his first-degree intentional homicide charge bargained down to second-degree homicide. A sentencing date has not been set. Salinas-Leal admitted shooting 38-year-old Darrell Ballweg on February third. Prosecutors said Ballweg and his wife were eating in the townhouse they shared with Salinas-Leal and his family. The defendant’s wife asked the Ballwegs to share their food – and when they said no, a fight escalated between Darrell Ballweg and Salinas-Leal. Prosecutors said the defendant left, came back, and shot Ballweg in the chest. And after that, officials said Salinas-Leal broke a TV and a cell-phone before taking the keys to a vehicle owned by Ballweg’s wife.
The Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese is apparently getting closer to settling damage claims from almost 500 victims of sexual abuse by priests. A 60-day mediation period has just expired. And both sides agreed yesterday to extend their talks at least into next week. Retired federal bankruptcy judge Randall Newsome of San Francisco has been meeting with the two sides, trying to reach an agreement that would pay the victims while letting church continue its mission. Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said “much progress” has been made. James Stang, who represents the sex abuse victims, said it was appropriate to continue based on the status of the talks. But neither side would give any more details. The 10-county Milwaukee archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection almost two years ago. The church was facing a dozen lawsuits from sex abuse victims – and they said the bankruptcy petition was the only way to stay in business while giving fair compensation to the plaintiffs. Several Catholic branches around the country have filed for bankruptcy, and Milwaukee’s case has the largest number of claimants.
The presidential election is six weeks from today – and Wisconsin’s top elections official will hold a news conference today to discuss voter registration. Kevin Kennedy is encouraging new voters to register before they get to the polls – and he’s expected to talk about new technology to help in that regard. Last week, the state Government Accountability Board started a new Web site that’s designed to deliver ballots securely over the Internet to Wisconsin’s military troops and other residents overseas. The system is designed to get ballots to foreign voters much faster – but they still have to mail their competed ballots to their local clerks.
One of the State Capitol’s best-known protestors is free on a signature bond, after being criminally charged with harassing journalists outside the Capitol’s press room. 24-year-old Jeremy Ryan of Madison has a settlement conference scheduled for October 26th in Dane County Circuit Court on two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. Authorities said Ryan yelled outside the press room in June and July – and it got so loud that reporters couldn’t hear a phone ring. Among other things, prosecutors said Ryan sang insulting songs about last year’s death of long-time Capitol journalist Dick Wheeler. His daughter Gwyn Guenther now runs the Wheeler Report – and she told authorities she feared for her safety in other parts of the Capitol. Ryan also has a non-criminal disorderly conduct case pending. He’s been a frequent protestor at the statehouse for more than a year-and-a-half.
A second mental exam has been ordered for a Milwaukee man charged with killing a woman at a city park on Labor Day Weekend. A forensic psychiatrist found that 32-year-old James Donegan was not mentally competent to help with his own defense and face his charges. But Donegan told a judge yesterday that he disagrees with the findings, and he believes he is competent. Donegan is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and armed robbery in the strangling-and-stabbing death of 45-year-old Teresa Boone on September second in Milwaukee’s Reservoir Park. Dane County Circuit Judge Sarah O’Brien ordered a second evaluation by a different psychiatrist who was deemed acceptable by both the prosecution and defense. Another court hearing will be held next Monday to review the findings. Donegan is the son of Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Tom Donegan – and that’s why a judge from Madison is hearing the case.
The U.S. attorney in Milwaukee says he’s considering a criminal investigation into the death of a man in police custody last year. James Santelle said he’s also considering a wider-ranging probe into possible civil rights abuses by the Milwaukee police force. But he stressed that he has not made a decision on either front. This comes after the Milwaukee County medical examiner changed its ruling yesterday in the death of 22-year-old Derek Williams in a Milwaukee police car in July of last year. Officials initially said he died of natural causes. But the medical examiner changed the ruling to a homicide, one day after the Journal Sentinel put out a video showing that Williams was begging for help and gasping for air in the squad car while officers ignored him. The officers had been cleared of wrongdoing, but District Attorney John Chisholm said he would have a special prosecutor revisit that decision. The DA also said he would seek an inquest – something he has opposed in the past, saying they’re not the proper proceedings to investigate deaths in police custody. Milwaukee Police are also doing their own investigation. Chief Ed Flynn said he has turned over all records in the Williams case to the U.S. attorney’s office. Williams was arrested for a robbery. Police reports said Williams complained that he couldn’t breathe as an officer put a knee to his back while he was being handcuffed on the ground.
First Lady Michelle Obama will encourage Wisconsinites to engage in grass-roots campaigning when she visits Appleton on Friday. She’s scheduled to speak at Lawrence University, in her second visit to the Badger State in the last month. The Obama campaign says the First Lady will encourage people to organize their communities behind the president. And she’ll promote voter registration and voting through the “Own Your Vote” initiative. Michelle Obama visited Milwaukee a month ago. She held a campaign rally, and spoke to those who lost relatives in the Sikh Temple shooting massacre in Oak Creek on Aug. 5
A Sheboygan man will serve 18 years in prison for killing a man and wounding another in a Walmart parking lot. Kou Yang was sentenced yesterday, and was ordered to spend 12 years under extended supervision when he leaves prison. The 21-year-old Yang tried but failed to convince a jury that he acted in self-defense, when he shot-and-killed 20-year-old Pheng Lee and wounded 21-year-old Chenglung Moua. The jury found him guilty of reckless homicide and reckless injury, and Yang pleaded no contest earlier to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The incident happened January eighth while Yang, his wife, and a friend were loading groceries in their vehicle in the Walmart lot. His lawyers said Yang feared for his life when Lee, Moua, and two others approached him. Yang thought the men might have been involved in a previous incident in which bullets were fired into Yang’s home. Testimony indicated tensions between rival gangs. But Yang said he had not been in a gang for two years.
A federal appeals court in Chicago heard arguments for about an hour today on whether some of Wisconsin’s public union bargaining limits are constitutional. The court is expected to take at least a few weeks before it reaches a decision. At issue is whether it’s legal to make public unions hold re-certification votes every year to be officially recognized – and whether it was okay for public employers to cut off payroll deductions for union dues. Federal judge William Conley of Madison ruled both items unconstitutional – and the state challenged those dismissals today. Much of the hearing focused on whether Republicans crafted the law in a way to give unions favorable to the GOP a free pass – while punishing unions favorable to Democrats. Police-and-fire unions are exempt from the bargaining restrictions. Judge Conley cited those exemptions when he said the annual union elections violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. State attorney Joseph Olson says there’s no proof that politics were important than financial concerns when the law was drafted. But unions’ attorney Leon Dayan said there was no well-defined criteria in determining which safety unions should be exempt. Earlier this month, a Dane County judge struck down the bargaining limits for local government and public school unions. The state is challenging that ruling as well.
Mark Neumann – who finished third among four candidates in last month’s Republican U.S. Senate primary – is asking for about $152,000 in unexpected campaign bills. The Waukesha County home-builder and former congressman e-mailed supporters today to say he needs help to pay some unexpected bills from vendors late in his campaign. And Neumann said he had no money left in his campaign account to cover those bills. Neumann’s net worth is between six-million and 18-million dollars – and as of late July, he put $240,000 of his own money into the campaign. But Neumann told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he would not cover the last-minute bills with his money. He said he was trying to help GOP Senate nominee Tommy Thompson raise campaign money for his November contest against Democrat Tammy Baldwin. Neumann said the e-mail solicitation would not cut into his efforts to help Thompson.
Marinette High School sat virtually empty yesterday, while a police standoff took place at a home across the street. Police were about called around 6:30 a.m. about an online posting, in which a 28-year-old man said he had a gun and wanted to harm himself. Officers arrived at the home, discovered that he was on the second floor, and kept him on the phone throughout the incident. Meanwhile, police decided to move up to 700 Marinette High School students to a field-house at the two-year UW-Marinette college. Police said the man surrendered voluntarily around 9:20 – and he did not any weapons in his possession. Police said they were treating the matter as a medical concern, and they took him to Marinette hospital. Students returned to the high school around 10 o’clock.
The Government Accountability Board says Wisconsin residents living abroad will find it much easier to request an absentee ballot for the November elections. The “My Vote WI” website allows active duty military personnel and others living overseas to request the ballot directly from the state. Using that online access, voters will be able to print the ballot from their computer and have it in just minutes. In the past, the voters would have to look up contact information for the clerk in their home district, send a ballot request to that person – then it would mailed to them or sent electronically. The completed ballots still have to be sent by snail mail, post-marked by election day and received by 5 p.m. the following Friday.
A Racine County church says it will file for bankruptcy reorganization in order to retain possession of its church building. True Life Ministries has been asked to pay off its four million dollar construction load. Tri City National Bank recently took over that loan when the Bank of Elmwood was shut down. True Life Ministry Pastor Jeff Butler calls the bank’s request for payment “hostile.” Butler told the congregation the church would be filing for bankruptcy during yesterday’s service in Mount Pleasant.
More than a dozen firefighters have been honored for their actions during a deadly fire last July in Oconomowoc. A total of 16 people were acknowledged during a ceremony yesterday for rescuing firefighter Mike Laventure. He was trapped while inside the burning building. The people acknowledged for their heroic actions came from several area departments who responded to the five-alarm fire which killed a 45 year old woman.
Local housing authorities in Wisconsin have received $720,000 federal dollars to prepare residents of public-and-assisted living complexes for jobs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says the money can be used to hire or keep 1,500 service coordinators who work directly with families in public housing. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says the funding will help residents get in touch with things like child care, computer training, job training, and other basic skills that people need to earn a living wage. Milwaukee was given $138,000 dollars, and Brown County received 135-thousand. Beloit was given just over $100,000 federal dollars – and smaller amounts went to public housing agencies in Kenosha and Appleton and Brown, Winnebago, Sauk, Dane, and Racine counties. Donovan says the government must make sure that every American has the resources they need for employment, in order to keep growing the U.S. economy.
A Portage man is due back in court October ninth for allegedly providing the heroin that killed his girlfriend in Mauston. 23-year-old Andrew Hayes is charged in Juneau County with first-degree reckless homicide in the death of 24-year-old Samantha Funk on April 12th. Authorities found the woman unconscious in a Mauston apartment. Prosecutors said Hayes’ brother went with him to Madison to buy the drug the day before Funk died. Hayes has waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and is scheduled to have a plea hearing on November sixth after a pre-trial conference about a month before that. Hayes is being held under a 10-thousand dollar cash bond.