Tuesday State News Briefs: Four wolves killed in first 48 hours of wolf huntWisconsin News
-- Four down, 112 to go. Hunters reported killing four grey wolves in the first 24 hours of Wisconsin’s inaugural wolf season.
Four down, 112 to go. Hunters reported killing four grey wolves in the first 24 hours of Wisconsin’s inaugural wolf season.
The DNR said late this morning that one animal was taken in the far northwest management zone, one in the mid-northwest zone, one in central Wisconsin, and one in the far northeast. No wolves have been reported shot yet in the southern or mid-northeast zones. Each zone has its own quota, and the season will end in the places where the quotas are reached. Otherwise, hunters have until February 28th to shoot a total of 116 wolves that were earmarked for the general public. Eighty-five other wolves were designated for Chippewa Indian tribes under their long-established treaty rights – and the tribes say they’ll preserve those animals and not hunt them. Officials say the wolf hunt will continue despite a request by two animal rights’ groups to shut it down. Those groups say they file a lawsuit to put the Upper Midwest grey wolves back on the federal endangered species’ list, if the government does not make that move in the next 60 days.
“Wisconsin, the land of persuadable voters.” That’s how the Washington Post sees us. And with another presidential debate tonight, the Post published a long story today on Wisconsin’s traditional, unpredictable streak of independence. It also cited a much larger-than-normal percentage of undecided voters in the contest for the White House three weeks from today. Marquette pollster Charles Franklin said 10-to-15 percent of Wisconsin’s voters have no strong loyalties to either major party – and they’re truly up for grabs. The Post called the undecided voters “the Wisconsin persuadables.” Franklin said they’re younger, less ideological, less partisan, and pay less attention to politics. The Washington newspaper said it was easy for its reporters to find undecided voters in the Badger State who remain quote, “in play.” And that includes people who will vote on gut instinct on November sixth. The Post also said Wisconsin has the largest percentage of counties that carried Republican George W. Bush in 2008, and Democrat Barack Obama in 2004. Thirty-one counties did the flip, mostly in the northern two-thirds of the state. The paper also cited the phenomenon of Obama-Walker supporters – those favoring the Democratic president as well as the Republican governor, despite their near 180-degree disagreements on political philosophy. Franklin said those people are not driven by ideology or party – but they do their civic duty.
The family of a 90-year-old woman who died soon after she was sexually assaulted by a fellow nursing home resident has settled a lawsuit against the facility. A trial in the case was about to enter its second week in Milwaukee County, when both sides agreed to a settlement after four days of testimony. Details of the deal were not released. Relatives of Mary Spiegl filed a wrongful death suit against the Franciscan Villa home of South Milwaukee, the firm of Catholic Health Initiatives, and its insurance carrier. The woman was molested by a 90-year-old resident at the home in January of 2009, and died about two-and-a-half weeks later. The lawsuit accused the nursing home of not having enough training to deal with sexual assaults among its residents – and the nurse in charge had left the attacker unattended. Officials said the man was never charged with a crime because of his lack of mental competency – and he ended up being transferred to a different nursing home.
A former Oshkosh woman has been sentenced to 20 days in jail and a year of probation, for falsifying the nomination papers of a former state lawmaker. 45-year-old Yadira Colon pleaded guilty yesterday in Milwaukee County to felony charges of election fraud and falsifying nomination papers. A second count of each offense was dropped in a plea bargain. Authorities said Yadier Colon forged 10 nominating signatures for former Assembly Democrat Pedro Colon in the 2008 election. The two are not related. The lawmaker certified four of the signatures in question, but the state Justice Department later said there was no evidence that Pedro Colon intentionally did anything wrong. He’s now a Milwaukee County circuit judge. Prosecutors also said Yadier registered to vote in Milwaukee, even though she lived in Oshkosh at the time. She voted absentee in Milwaukee in the 2008 primaries. She now lives in Penbroke Bines, Florida.
Democrat Tammy Baldwin leads the money race for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat. The Madison congresswoman said she raised almost $4.6 million dollars from July-through-September, while her Republican opponent Tommy Thompson raised three-point-six million. Thompson, a former governor, said his war-chest went dry soon after he won a hard-fought four-way GOP primary in August. But since then, he has raised $2.2 million dollars – but Baldwin raised more, with almost $3.6 million. The Thompson campaign said almost two-thirds of his donors gave $100 or less. Baldwin said she had about $3.5 million on hand as of October first, while Thompson had around two-million. The so-called “money race” among the candidates is not as important as it used to be, because outside groups are now outspending the hopefuls several times over. A recent federal report said outside groups have spent 21-million-dollars on the Wisconsin Senate race – the second-highest among Senate contests in the country. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will campaign for Thompson on Wednesday in Green Bay.
A computer examiner has found 34 e-mails that Republican legislators withheld from two groups which sued the lawmakers over their redistricting plan. A federal court panel was alerted to the e-mails yesterday, but it’s not known what it will do about it. The judges previously ordered three times that lawmakers and their attorneys from Michael Best and Friedrich hand over the e-mails to the plaintiffs. Those e-mails explain how Republicans redrew Senate and Assembly districts – districts that critics say are meant to give the GOP a better chance of keeping control of the State Capitol for the next decade. After losing their lawsuit, the Hispanic and Democratic plaintiffs said they found evidence that Republicans refused to give them certain e-mails as the court had ordered. They asked the judges to investigate – but before a decision could be made on that, Michael Best and Friedrich hired a Chicago law firm to do its own investigation. And that firm hired computer experts which dug out the 34 e-mails which were allegedly withheld improperly. The computer firm, Project Leadership, gave copies of the e-mails to the plaintiffs. But they were not filed with the federal court, when it was told about the messages. With one small exception, the judicial panel upheld the constitutionality of the GOP’s districts. They said the process was poorly handled, but the district lines themselves met the legal requirements of the redistricting that’s done every 10 years to correspond with each Census.
President Obama’s campaign is condemning a home-made sign in the central Wisconsin community of Red-granite. The sign on Highway 21 reads, “Hang in there, Obama.” And it has the drawing of a noose, the words “Hang Obama” in large red capital letters, and the words “in there” in smaller black letters in the middle of the phrase. WLUK-TV of Green Bay did a story about the sign, a photo of which was posted on the station’s Web site this morning. Thomas Savka made the sign. He told the station it was meant to draw attention – but while it might surprise people, he said he actually supports Obama. Savka said if you read the entire sign, it encourages the president to keep up the good fight. And he said those who see racial implications because of the noose are not getting the point. And the president’s campaign doesn’t see the point, either. In a statement to WLUK, an Obama spokesperson said quote, “This type of imagery is inappropriate, and has no place in public discourse around elections.”
President Obama’s campaign has announced details of the First Lady’s visit to Wisconsin on Friday. Michelle Obama will appear at the Racine Civic Centre, with doors opening at 10:30 a-m. She’ll then travel to Wausau, where a Friday afternoon rally is planned in the field-house at the UW-Marathon County two-year campus. Those doors will open at 1:15 p.m. The Obama campaign does not always announce exact arrival times. During the president’s last visit to Madison on October fourth, he kept thousands of people waiting for several hours during rain and strong winds outside Bascom Hall.
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan accused President Obama yesterday of stealing the next generation’s future. The Vice Presidential candidate from Janesville spoke at a mid-morning rally at Carroll University’s field house in Waukesha. Ryan wore a Green Bay Packers’ tie to tout his favorite team’s upset victory over the previously undefeated Houston Texans last night. Republican Governor Scott Walker introduced Ryan – and he said America needs a comeback similar to what the Packers demonstrated. Ryan told the home-state crowd that he plans to celebrate a November sixth victory by him and Mitt Romney by going deer hunting with his 10-year-old daughter. Ryan said President Obama inherited a tough situation four years ago, but he has only made it worse. The House Budget chairman said quote, “We have a president who believes borrowing and spending and regulating and raising taxes is the secret to economic success.” And he added quote, “We need a new president.” Ryan promoted the Romney plan to cut taxes by 20-percent across-the-board, as a pathway to growing the nation’s economy. Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama plans to appear in Racine and Wausau on Friday. Details have not been released yet.
The presidential candidates and special interest groups plan to spend over a billion-dollars on TV ads. And the vast majority will be spent in Wisconsin and seven other battleground states which are expected to decide the outcome. The Kantar analysis group in Washington says $750-million have been allocated in the eight swing states. About $150-million has already been spent in Florida, where history professor Scot French says the ads are frustrating and annoying voters. He tells the AP that the home-stretch ads are quote, “a game of sowing confusion among those who are most confusable.” With only 22 days before Election Day, the stepped-up ads are going after a dwindling number of voters who remain undecided. The Federal Election Commission says 21-million dollars have been spent by outside groups on the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin. That’s the second-most of any Senate race in the country, behind Virginia. And it’s seven times what was spent in the 2010 Senate race in which Ron Johnson unseated Democrat Russ Feingold. Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, wonders if all the ads have reached a point of diminishing returns. He tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he’s a political junkie – and even he mutes and zaps out the political ads when watching at home. Sabato said quote, “If I’m not watching, I know most people aren’t – they just can’t take it anymore.” Many voters questioned by the AP think the ads are too negative, with very few specifics.
The family of a man shot-to-death by a Milwaukee police officer in 2005
has reached an out-of-court settlement in a federal lawsuit against the city. Relatives of Wilbert Prado said off-duty officer Alfonso Glover violated the victim’s civil rights. The amount of money that Prado’s estate would get is not being disclosed for now. If it’s not approved by the Common Council and Mayor Tom Barrett, the case will go to a second trial. Authorities said Glover had just gotten off work in March 2005 when he tailed Prado’s vehicle on a freeway – and when they pulled off onto a side street, Glover confronted Prado and killed him. Glover was cleared by an inquest jury, but a former prosecutor filed a criminal charge against the officer anyway – and Glover killed himself the next day. In 2010, a jury found that Glover used excessive force – but he was not acting within the scope of his job, so the city did not have to pay the jury’s damage award of $1.8 million. Prado’s relatives appealed, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago awarded a new trial. The court said a judge committed an error with his instructions to the jury in the original trial.
A half-million-dollar bond was set yesterday for a northeast Wisconsin man accused of starting at least six fires in Oconto County. And state Justice officials are investigating to see if 28-year-old Drew Christensen of Suring was responsible for up to 40 unsolved fires in the area. He appeared in court yesterday on a pair of felony arson charges – a garage fire in January and a mobile home fire last August, both in the town of Bagley. The criminal complaint said Christensen also admitted to starting four other blazes – including a fire at the 100-year-old Klondike Community Church which was heavily damaged in March. That blaze caused an estimated 600-thousand-dollars of damage. Two taverns were also damaged. A motive for the fires has not been disclosed. Christensen is due back in court October 30th, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order the defendant to stand trial.
A fight at a downtown Madison bar early yesterday resulted in the arrest of a man and citations for two men who came to his aid. The fight started in Osaka Bar on State Street and ended up on the street. It led the bar manager to close his establishment early when two customers ran outside screaming due to the violence. Twenty-one year old David Kannenberg was arrested. He’s accused of punching several bar employees after he got into a fight with a woman inside the bar. The right resumed on State Street when Kannenberg was taken outside. Police say that was the second fight at the Osaka Bar in the last two weeks.
A worker for a landscaping company suffered a severed leg in an accident which happened early this morning in Milwaukee. The man was stringing cable over East Wisconsin Avenue and North Milwaukee Street at about 12:40 a.m. when a cable, dangling over the roadway, became entangled on a passing Milwaukee County Transit System bus. The worker’s leg was caught in the cable. He’s listed in critical condition at Froedtert Hospital. The crew was working on holiday light installations at the time.
The Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese still hopes that a settlement can be reached with hundreds of sex abuse victims, after a court-ordered mediator failed to strike a deal. Both sides said yesterday that their mediation – which Bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley ordered in late July – had broken down. About 575 people have filed financial claims against the Archdiocese, saying they deserve compensation after being sexually abused by priests a number of years ago. The church filed for Chapter-11 bankruptcy in January of 2011, saying it needed to compensate the abuse victims while having enough money left over to keep operating the 10-county archdiocese. The matter now goes back to Kelley’s courtroom, where several issues must be decided. The victims say the archdiocese has been trying to hide settlement funds in various accounts. And they want the judge to pry out $57-million in a cemetery trust, and $35-million in a seven-year-old fund. Meanwhile, the church has asked that the majority of financial claims be thrown out – including those which involve religious orders, and are past the statute-of-limitations. The church also wants to drop cases in which settlements were already reached. Victims’ attorney Jeffrey Anderson has also asked that sealed documents be released that provide details of the sex abuse.
Wisconsin’s corn and soybean harvests remain ahead of schedule, as the result of dry weather before this past weekend. Federal officials said 54-percent of the state’s corn is out of the fields. That’s up from 36-percent a week ago – and it’s 18-percent more than the average for the past five years. The USDA reduced its estimate of the nation’s corn harvest last week, as the drought continued to get worse in Wisconsin among other places. But the Badger State got some relief during the weekend, as anywhere from an-inch-an-half to six inches of rain fell. That’s still well below the precipitation shortages for the year, but officials said the rain was definitely a help. Wisconsin’s soybean harvest continues to do well. Eighty-percent of the beans are in, up from 75-percent a week ago and 46-percent for the past five years. But pasture conditions reflect the increased dryness as of last week. The USDA said only four-percent of Wisconsin’s pasture lands were in good shape – and 78-percent were either poor or very poor. Forecasters say more rain is possible throughout Wisconsin today – and rain is likely statewide tomorrow.
A 13-year-old boy will get a mental exam to see if he’s competent to help with his own defense for the brutal killing of his 78-year-old great-grandmother in Sheboygan Falls. Circuit Judge Timothy Van Akkeren ordered the exam yesterday for Antonio Barbeau, despite objections from prosecutors. Barbeau and 13-year-old Nathan Paape are both charged as adults with first-degree intentional homicide in the slaying of Barbara Olson in mid-September. Paape’s lawyer has not asked for an exam. A competency hearing for Barbeau is set for November second after his exam is complete. His lawyer, George Limbeck, said his client cannot understand the legal process for his defense – or an effort that will come later to try him in juvenile court. Prosecutors said the teens killed Olson while ransacking her house for money – and they got away with $165 which they used to buy pizza and marijuana. Authorities said the boys also stole Olson’s car and jewelry. Limbeck said a brain injury that Barbeau suffered in a previous accident might affect competency. But Sheboygan County District Attorney Joe DeCecco said the injury was not serious enough to affect his competency – and there was not enough evidence that the mental exam was needed.
A Marshfield man made his initial court appearance yesterday in the stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend. 21-year-old Gabriel Campos is charged in Wood County with first-degree intentional homicide in the slaying of 18-year-old Maisie McCullough at their east side Marshfield home on September seventh. The defendant appeared on a video hook-up from jail. But security was still tight in the courtroom, as spectators had to go through metal detectors. A preliminary hearing is set for November 12th, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial. Police said McCullough had just broken up with Campos – and she was about to stay with friends when she returned to the house for a curling iron on the night of the killing. Campos turned himself in the next day, while he and his young son were at a motel in Wisconsin Rapids. Campos remains in the Wood County Jail under a five-million-dollar cash bond.
Wisconsin food shoppers are paying less than they did this spring – but they’re paying about the same as at the start of the year. That’s according to the quarterly Market Basket survey from the state’s Farm Bureau Federation. The total price of 16 food items in 31 Wisconsin cities dropped one-point-four-percent from July through September – and it’s down one-point-nine percent from a year ago. Half of the food items surveyed went up in price – including some main elements of a hot breakfast. A dozen eggs cost 17-percent more, while bacon was up nine-percent. White bread, russet potatoes, and vegetable oil all went down by nine-percent or more. The Farm Bureau said Wisconsin’s market basket price was almost four-and-a-half percent less than the national average for the same items. Casey Langan of the state’s Farm Bureau said energy prices have been stable, and volatile food price swings have been avoided even though the cost of transporting food remains high. Also, Langan said this year’s drought – and the smaller harvests that are being reported – won’t be felt in the grocery store until next year.
For the second year in a row, Governor Scott Walker’s administration put money into the state government’s long-ignored “rainy day fund.” Officials said yesterday that the state ended its fiscal year with a surplus of $342-million-dollars in its general account – and it put almost a third of that, or $109-million, into the state’s fund for emergencies. The amount was less than one-percent of the $13-billion spent from the state’s general fund in the fiscal year ending June 30th. But after years of deficits built up by both parties, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said the rainy day fund deposit was the largest since the fund was created. And he said Walker and other officials are quote, “good stewards” of the taxpayers’ money. Walker said his administration remains quote, “committed to making the tough decisions necessary to avoid tax increases, while maintaining services.”
A one-million-dollar bond has been set for a Minnesota man accused of killing a Wausau area woman, after he allegedly stole two weapons from a gun dealer and a pickup truck. 21-year-old Richi Vue of Saint Paul made his first court appearance in Marathon County yesterday on charges of homicide, theft, vehicle theft, fleeing an officer, and possessing guns as a convicted felon. Authorities said Vue shot his girlfriend, 20-year-old Lee Xiong, to death last Saturday night at her apartment in Weston. That was after they argued about a drug deal which went sour. Officials said Vue, Xiong, and a 14-year-old unrelated witness smoked meth-amphetamines for several hours before the shooting. Sheriff’s officers from Marathon and Clark counties tracked down the suspect after he allegedly tried to elude them in a wooded area near Abbotsford, about 40 miles west of the murder scene. Vue was arrested early Sunday after a brief chase. Prosecutors said he was driving a truck stolen September 11th from a Wausau area dealership – and officers recovered a .357 Magnum and a 40-caliber handgun that were stolen recently from a gun shop in Lincoln County. Vue is due back in court October 25th, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial.
A Green Bay woman died yesterday from burns suffered in a weekend fire in her apartment. 60-year-old Patricia Loudbear died at Columbia-Saint Mary’s Regional Burn Center in Milwaukee. The blaze occurred late Saturday night in a two-story building on Green Bay’s east side. Officials said the fire apparently started in the victim’s living room. The cause remains under investigation, but foul play is not suspected. Loudbear was among eight people displaced as a result of the fire, but some have reportedly returned to their apartments. The fire was contained to the victim’s apartment, and damage was estimated at $30,000. It was Green Bay’s first fatal fire in just over two years.
A pedestrian was struck-and-killed by a vehicle, while he was walking his dog home from a nearby kennel. It happened just before seven Sunday night on a dark, rainy street in Hartford. Authorities said a 64-year-old Hartford man had just picked up the pet, and was walking it home when he was struck. The man died later at a hospital. The vehicle and the man’s dog both escaped injury. Police said excessive speed and alcohol did not appear to be factors, but they’re still investigating. The victim’s name was not immediately released.
Dozens of Wisconsin school districts will either get the same or more state aid than a year ago – but most will get less. That’s according to a district-by-district breakdown released today by the state Department of Public Instruction. Two-hundred-72 school systems will get less money from Madison than a year ago. That’s 64-percent of the 424 public school districts in the Badger State. And the other 36-percent, or 152 districts, will get the same-or-more funding from Madison. Last year, only 13 districts got more than the previous year. The state is spending four-point-three billion dollars on public schools this year, about 32-million more than a year ago. But that includes aid that’s given to private school voucher programs in Milwaukee and Racine – and that means the others are seeing a net decline.
Seven Wisconsin brewers won a total of 10 awards at the recent Great American Beer Festival. The Brewers Association of Boulder, Colorado put on the event. And the Stevens Point Brewery won two of the state’s five gold medals for its Point Oktoberfest beer, and its Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale. The New Glarus Brewing Company won gold for its Hometown Blonde. The Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst took home a gold medal its “14-14” wood-and-barrel-aged stout. And the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company won its category for Uber Bock. New Glarus, Leinenkugel’s, and Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery won a total of four silver medals, and Mickey’s Malt Liquor from Miller Brewing won a bronze. Over 250 medals were awarded in 84 brewing categories. The winners were chosen from over 4,300 entries nationwide.