Afternoon State News Briefs: Four Milwaukee cops charged with conducting illegal strip searchestrong style="color: red;">Wisconsin News
-- Four Milwaukee police officers were criminally charged today with conducting illegal strip searches of drug suspects.
MILWAUKEE - Four Milwaukee police officers were criminally charged today with conducting illegal strip searches of drug suspects.
The district attorney’s office filed 25 charges of sexual assault, misconduct in office, and illegal strip-searching against officer Michael Vagnini. He was the only officer to be charged with sexual assault, after a long investigation into reports that officers checked suspects’ cavities to see if they were hiding illegal drugs. Officer Jeffrey Dollhopf is charged with two counts of illegal strip-searching, and two counts of misconduct. Officers Jacob Knight and Brian Kozelek face one charge of each. The investigation began in March. At the time, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said his department was aware of possible sexual assault and civil rights violations for a couple of years. But he had waited for a pattern of abuse before launching an investigation. At least seven officers and a supervisor were taken off the streets and given new duties as a result. Seven people have filed notices against the city, claiming they were illegally stripped-search. At least three defendants had their charges dropped or reduced, after it was learned that drug evidence was obtained illegally.
Vice President Joe Biden will visit Wisconsin on Friday, the day after he debates his Republican opponent Paul Ryan of Janesville. The Democratic Obama campaign did not release details of Biden’s visit – including the city or cities he’ll appear in. It will be the vice president’s third visit to Wisconsin since Labor Day weekend. His other rallies were in Green Bay and Eau Claire. A week ago, President Obama campaigned at UW-Madison the day after he debated Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Obama has an 11-point lead over Romney in the latest Marquette University Law School poll. But there have been no independent poll numbers released since his widely-criticized debate with Romney last Wednesday night.
The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation ranks Wisconsin 43rd among the states when for the amount of taxes its businesses have to pay. The 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index was released today. Wyoming was ranked the most hospitable state for businesses based on the tax rate. Wisconsin ranked best among the states for its sales tax rate at 15th and lowest for individual income taxes at 46th. A separate report today from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance shows business taxes are only 10 percent of the eight and a half billion dollars state businesses paid last year. More than half of that figure was paid in property taxes.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports a four year old girl has died from the injuries she suffered in an off-road vehicle accident last weekend. The girl was reportedly riding a utility task vehicle in Langlade County Sunday afternoon. She and the 61 year old man also on the UTV were thrown off when it crashed about nine miles east of Antigo. The man’s injuries weren’t serious. Names of the victims have not been released. The girl was taken to a hospital in Marshfield where she died. The DNR has not said who was driving the UTV.
A Korean War veteran from Appleton has been buried with full military honors – over 60 years after he died. Private Arthur Hopfensperger was 18 when he was killed in Korea in 1950. His remains were excavated in the area of battle where Hopfensperger was killed. And an MIA command team found the remains years later. The soldier’s family provided his DNA – and it matched Hopfensperger’s remains. As a result, his body was sent home. And a full burial service was held yesterday at Highland Memorial Park in Appleton.
At least one defense attorney wants to find out more about the suspension of a Fox Valley drug investigator, in the hopes it will help his client. Winnebago County sheriff’s detective Greg Weitz is on an unpaid suspension for having “inappropriate contact” with a confidential informant while he was off-duty in July. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the action could affect dozens of pending drug cases in which Weitz and-or the informant were involved. Waukesha attorney Anthony Cotton told the paper he’ll ask for more information about Weitz at a hearing this month for his client, Printiss Williams. The suspension came to light in late September during a trial in which 27-year-old Lord Wilson was convicted of helping run a four-million-dollar heroin-and-cocaine ring in the Oshkosh area. Williams was among nine people charged with conspiracy in the case – and about two dozen others were accused of other roles. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Weitz was forced to reveal his suspension during his testimony. And all sides, including the judge, agreed in advance to the questions Weitz was asked on the witness stand. Prosecutor Eric Sparr told the paper that no other information was given out to the jury. And he could not say anything else because the details are sealed. The drug ring was busted 15 months ago. Sparr said Weitz was not directly involved in that case – but he expects the investigator will come up in some of the matters. Cotton says it’s relevant because his client’s case is based solely on informant testimony.
Bond was set at $200,000 today for a Marinette County man charged in a drunk driving crash that killed a 13-year-old boy and injured three of the boy’s relatives. 28-year-old Timothy Christ of Wausaukee made his first court appearance on eight felony charges, including death-and-injuries by drunk driving. He’s due back in court November first, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial. Christopher Croley of Ishpeming, Michigan died in the head-on crash, which occurred last Friday night on Highway 141 in the Marinette County town of Middle Inlet. Authorities said Christ’s pickup truck hit a car driven by the teen’s mother, 44-year-old Jodi Betts Croley. She was seriously hurt, along with the boy’s two sisters ages 16-and-17. Prosecutors said Christ’s blood alcohol level was point-262 about two hours after the crash. That’s more than three times the legal limit for intoxication. Christ was also designated as a repeat offender. That means he’s had at least one prior conviction or license removal connected with alcohol.
Wisconsinites are finding fewer places to do their banking. The FDIC said today that the total number of bank branches dropped by almost one-and-a-half percent over the past year, to 22-hundred-87 as of June 30th. Wisconsin has lost over 100 bank branches since the Great Recession made its presence known in 2008. Officials say banks have been cutting expenses to cover higher regulatory costs – and to make up for bad loans during the troubled economy. Some analysts say a growth in online banking has reduced the need for at least some brick-and-mortar facilities. Metro Milwaukee has 577 bank branches this year – 35 fewer than in both 2008-and-’09. Nationally, bank branches dropped by almost one-percent, to just over 97-thousand.
The American Transmission Company will hold five public open houses this month, so folks can learn more about two options for a new electric transmission line from the Madison area to La Crosse. Both options run from Middleton to Wisconsin Dells – and then one proposed line heads west with a north-and-west jog into La Crosse. The other option goes from the Dells to Black River Falls, and then turns south around Blair. Depending on the route, the project will cost up to a half-billion dollars, and will run from 150-to-170 miles. ATC hopes to get state approval next year. But first, it will hold open houses October 23rd in Onalaska, the 24th in Cashton, the 25th in Black River Falls, the 29th in Mauston, and October 30th in Waunakee. The line would hook up at La Crosse to the Cap-X 2020 transmission line which would head west throughout the Upper Midwest. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ruled that both Xcel Energy and ATC own the Madison-to-La Crosse line, but ATC is appealing. ATC also wants a share of the new transmission line from La Crosse into Minnesota, saying it’s essentially one project. The lines’ supporters say it will improve the flow of electricity in the region, and let wind power from the Dakotas and Minnesota flow into Wisconsin. But critics question the need for the project, saying the economy has reduced electric demand.
A woman killed when a pick-up truck hit her bicycle in Dane County was identified today as 37-year-old Carrie Pate of Madison. Authorities said she was riding on the right shoulder of County Trunk “M” in the town of Westport when a pick-up truck going into the same direction hit the bike. The crash remains under investigation. It happened late yesterday morning near the entrance to Governor Nelson State Park.