Tuesday State News Briefs: Immigrant workers in Wisconsin part of U.S. Senate hearingsWisconsin News
-- At least four immigrant workers from Wisconsin are among 250 who are meeting in Washington as lawmakers hold more hearings on immigration reform.
WASHINGTON D.C. - At least four immigrant workers from Wisconsin are among 250 who are meeting in Washington as lawmakers hold more hearings on immigration reform.
Three striking employees of Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee and Jennifer Martinez of Manitowoc are part of a group brought together by the United Workers’ Congress. Martinez’s husband was deported to Mexico last year, leaving four children behind. The group plans to spend two days in the nation’s capital to quote, “expose the impact of deportations, and push for workers’ rights principles to be included in any immigration reform.” The Senate has an initial hearing this week. In the House, Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte plans to spell out possible reform options at a hearing today. The Senate package creates a path to citizenship for over $11 million illegal immigrants, but Goodlatte says he doesn’t like the idea. Among other things, the Senate package would grant visas for high-skilled foreign workers, further secure U.S. borders, and make it easier for employers to check the immigration status of the people they hire.
Oak Creek Police lieutenant Brian Murphy will be in the First Lady’s box tonight when President Obama delivers his State-of-the-Union address. Murphy was shot 15 times by Wade Michael Page during the massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin last August. Murphy survived, but six worshippers were killed, plus the gunman – and three others were wounded. The 51-year-old Murphy said he’s extremely excited to be invited to the House chamber for the president’s address. And he said he’s glad that possible solutions to gun violence are being debated. Murphy said people expect something to be done – and it’s important that the nation look harder at the issue. At that point at least, Murphy says he’s not endorsing any particular gun control measures. He and his wife plan to attend a reception at the White House before tomorrow night’s speech.
Most of Wisconsin’s small businesses appear to be in favor of a proposed new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business said almost 82-percent of the members it surveyed agreed that quote, “state law should be changed to make it easier to allow mining in northern Wisconsin.” Assembly and Senate mining committees endorsed a Republican package last week. It’s now headed to the Joint Finance Committee and then to the full Legislature. The number of small businesses answering the federation’s survey was not disclosed, but the group said it represents over 11-thousand small business owners in the state. Only 8.4 percent disagreed that new mining legislation should be passed, and nine-percent were undecided. Federation director Bill Smith said his group believes that Gogebic Taconite’s proposed iron ore mine would be a boon to the economy, and create jobs throughout Wisconsin. Smith said his members wanted to be part of the debate – and most are excited about the project itself.
A bicyclist from Madison has died after he was hit by a van near Blakely Mississippi. Media reports said 25-year-old Christopher Vogts was on a bike tour, and was on his way to visit some friends in New Orleans when his cycle was struck around nine last Friday night. He died at the scene.
For the 10th year in a row, telemarketers are the No. 1 consumer complaint in Wisconsin. The state’s Consumer Protection agency will release its annual Top-10 list of the complaint letters it received in 2012. Almost two-thousand people were bothered enough by unwanted sales calls to write out complaints to Madison. The Wisconsin State Journal said over 300 cease-and-desist orders were sent to telemarketers last year. But illegal robo-calls are almost impossible to stop, even for those on the state’s do-not-call list. Consumer protection administrator Sandy Chalmers says you should hang up when getting one of those calls – and if you press a key or speak to an operator, you’ll just invite other telemarketers to call you. Landlord-tenant disputes were a distant second on the state’s list, with 940 written complaints. Various tele-communication complaints were third, followed by identity theft – especially the thefts of Social Security numbers. Home improvement scams are No. 5, followed by appliance store complaints. Over 200 complaints were filed when Milwaukee’s Appliance World closed, affecting buyers who paid for merchandise but never had it delivered. State officials intervened, and they said over $89,000 in goods were returned. Motor vehicle sales were the seventh most common complaint. Gas pump inaccuracies, vehicle repairs, and contests round out the Top-10.
A $150,000 cash bond has been set for a Milwaukee man charged with a dozen armed robberies and a pair of burglaries. Authorities said 22-year-old Kenneath Turner-Harris was free on a signature bond when he carried out his alleged crime spree from November through January. Police arrested him after a high-speed chase. Prosecutors said the defendant’s DNA was found on a car stolen during the robbery of a sports bar employee in West Allis – and Turner-Harris’s blood was also found at a home burglary in Milwaukee. Both those crimes were reported in early-to-mid November. Prosecutors said the man went on to commit numerous holdups throughout Milwaukee County. Police are still investigating several incidents. Turner-Harris faces 17 felony counts of armed robbery, robbery-by-force, burglary, firearm possession by a convicted felon, and eluding officers. He was placed on electronic monitoring, and he’s due back in court a week from today when it will be decided if there’s enough evidence to order a trial.
A federal court trial is scheduled to begin a week from today for the first woman who accused former prosecutor Ken Kratz of sexually harassing her. Stephanie Van Groll is seeking unspecified damages from the former Calumet County district attorney, who filed for bankruptcy last April. She said Kratz violated her civil rights, by sending racy text messages and trying to start up an affair in 2009 while he was prosecuting her boyfriend for abusing her. The word didn’t get out about that until 2010. And when it did, several other women said Kratz made sexually-suggestive remarks to them. A couple months later, Kratz resigned after former Governor Jim Doyle started proceedings to remove him. Later, Kratz ran a private law practice in the Fox Valley for a while – and he has since moved to Florida. Last year, the state’s Office of Lawyer Regulation asked the Supreme Court to suspend Kratz’s law license for six months. The justices have not made a decision.
Three Catholic cardinals with ties to Wisconsin are among the 118 who are eligible to choose the next pope. They are former La Crosse Bishop Raymond Burke, who’s now the chief justice of the highest court at the Vatican – Milwaukee native James Harvey, who’s an archpriest for one of four major basilicas in Rome – and former Milwaukee Archbishop Tim Dolan, who now heads the church in New York. Dolan and Harvey were both elevated last year. All cardinals under age-80 are eligible to choose the next pope, and that’s expected in March after Benedict-the-16th announced yesterday that he’ll resign at the end of the month. Dolan was mentioned in the early speculation about Benedict’s replacement. But Georgetown theologian Thomas Reese says an American probably doesn’t have a chance of being elected. Vatican correspondent John Allen, who wrote a book-length interview with Dolan in 2011, said the former Milwaukee leader’s chances are remote but quote – “that in itself is more than you can say for any previous American candidate.” The 85-year-old Benedict says he no longer has the proper mind and body to serve as he should. He’s been the pope since 2005. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki said he saw Benedict last February and November – and he noticed a drop in the pope’s energy level the second time. Listecki said Benedict’s schedule would quote, “kill a horse.” And he said the workload was most likely a factor in becoming the first pope in 600 years not to die as the pontiff.
New medical information came out yesterday, as an inquest began into the death of a Milwaukee man while in police custody. A jury expects to hear seven days of testimony from over 40 witnesses in the 2011 death of 22-year-old Derek Williams. Assistant medical examiner Christopher Poulos testified yesterday that a critical bone in Williams’ neck was not cracked, as initial tests had indicated. Poulos also explained his finding that Williams died from sickle cell crisis – the first such ruling in a-thousand cases Poulos has handled over the past five years. The medical examiner said it was brought on by stress and exertion, after Williams had been chased by officers who saw him rob a couple on a Milwaukee street. A video released last summer showed that Williams collapsed in a squad car. And once that got out, Poulos changed the cause of death from natural causes to homicide. He’s expected to explain the reasoning for that move when he returns to the stand today. Special prosecutor John Franke is questioning the witnesses, with no cross-examinations by a defense. The jury is expected to help Franke eventually decide whether charges should be filed in Williams’ death.
A hospitalized man was arrested yesterday, after he allegedly killed a neighbor before shooting himself at his rural property west of Beloit. Rock County authorities said 75-year-old Daniel Bellard faces a possible charge of first-degree intentional homicide. He remains in stable condition at UW Hospital in Madison under a police guard. The incident happened last Wednesday. Sheriff’s deputies said the arrest was based on evidence gathered at the property, statements by witnesses, and interviews by investigators. Authorities said Bellard shot-and-killed 59-year-old Christine Gesterich. Her body was found in a barn on his property – and officers later found Bellard shot-and-wounded in another of his buildings.
The state DNR is investigating Wisconsin’s ninth snowmobile death of the winter. Forest County authorities said 22-year-old Nicholas Giese of Fond du Lac died Saturday on a trail about 20 miles south of Crandon. The DNR said he was driving alone – and he was going uphill on an angle when the snowmobile rolled down the hillside. The agency’s Web site said speed-and-alcohol were both possible factors. The nine deaths this season are almost twice as many as a year ago, during a mild winter. The state did not record its ninth death in 2012 until March 9th.
The Adams County Sheriff’s Department is blaming slick road conditions and an unused seatbelt for the death of an Oxford woman. Crash investigators say 26 year old Cerissa Hart was traveling west on Highway 82 when her vehicle went out of control, slid across the center line and slammed into a tractor-trailer truck head-on. She was ejected and pronounced dead on the scene. The accident was reported just before noon yesterday in Jackson Township. The Wisconsin State Patrol reconstruction team helped with the investigation of the fatal crash.
About 100 electric customers in downtown Milwaukee were still without power at mid-day, after an explosion blew out a manhole cover last evening. We Energies said about 600 customers were in the dark at the peak of the outage. And at last word, utility officials said they were still trying to determine why the final customers were still out. We Energies’ spokesman Brian Manthey said a fault in an underground utility cable started a fire – and a manhole cover near the fault exploded and broke up the asphalt on the affected street. Manthey said the cause of the fire has yet to be determined. We Energies is making repairs today – and it’s investigating to figure out why the fire and explosion occurred. One person suffered minor injuries, but nobody was hospitalized from the blast.
Wisconsin gas prices are about 10-cents higher per gallon than a week ago, and 45-cents higher than a month ago. National analyst Trilby Lundberg tells CNN that wholesale prices were already rising when consumer prices bottomed out in late December. Lundberg said retailers have been feeling the pinch for the last two weeks, and it’s only gotten worse. The Wisconsin Triple-“A” said the average statewide price of regular unleaded was $3.61-a-gallon this morning, just over a half-cent higher than yesterday. That’s 19-cents higher than at the same time last year.