Plea deal means Gov. Walker won't testify; observers weigh-in on Biden-Ryan debate; Asian carp wiggle into Presidential campaign; more state newsWisconsin News
A no-contest plea entered Thursday by a former aide to Scott Walker means the governor won't have to testify against Kelly Rindfleisch. Also, political observers do agree that Thursday's debate was spirited but there is no immediate consensus on who won and today may be the last day to enjoy fall colors as weekend weather will bring changes, plus more state news.
MILWAUKEE -- A plea agreement struck Thursday means Gov. Scott Walker won't be forced to testify against a former aide.
Prosecutor Bruce Landgraf won’t say whether Walker’s possible testimony was a factor in settling Kelly Rindfleisch’s felony misconduct case before a trial could begin on Monday but Landgraf said, “This case was never about Governor Scott Walker – It was always about Kelly Rindfleisch.” She wanted to plead no contest Thursday to charges that she illegally did campaign work on taxpayers’ time, but Judge David Hansher told Rindfleisch to either admit or deny the allegations – and she pleaded guilty. She’ll be sentenced Nov. 19th, and her plea deal calls for jail time with a possible work release privilege, and no fine.
Rindfleisch was convicted of one felony charge of misconduct in office. Three others were dropped. Also, she will have to help prosecutors in their ongoing John Doe investigation.
Landgraf says Rindfleisch might be called as a witness against former Walker official Tim Russell, who’s charged with embezzling $21,000 from a county program that recognizes veterans. That trial is due to begin Dec. 3rd. Walker is on the list of witnesses for that trial as well – but it’s not certain whether he’ll be subpoenaed.
Debate post-mortem: viewers torn on declaring a winner
The opening-and-closing handshakes were among the few calm moments at last night’s vice presidential debate. Verbal sparks flew the rest of the time. Republican challenger Paul Ryan of Janesville kept challenging a spirited Vice President Joe Biden – who was out to display some fire after a listless performance by President Obama in his debate with a more aggressive Mitt Romney last week. The two clashed from the get-go, first on foreign policy and then on economic issues. Ryan blasted the Obama administration for not providing enough security to U-S Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in a terrorist attack at the American embassy in Libya on September 11th. Biden called it a “bunch of malarkey.” The two constantly interrupted each other, as well as moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News.
On taxes, Biden defended tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans, but Ryan looked in the camera and told the middle class to watch out. Each accused the other of not disclosing enough about their economic-and-tax plans. And they sparred on Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare by giving providing vouchers to buy private care. Biden said it would cost seniors thousands of dollars more, but Ryan accused the administration of not offering a “credible solution.”
Biden said Medicare could save billions if it could negotiate with drug companies on the cost of seniors’ medicines. Their only agreement during the 90-minute forum was they wanted the U.S. out of Afghanistan in 2014 but they disagreed on how firm the commitment should be.
On Friday, Biden was to be campaigning at UW La Crosse. Ryan returns to Milwaukee Saturday night to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson.
Family, friends, and supporters gathered in Janesville Thursday night to watch their hometown candidate Ryan. Ryan’s older brother Tobin said he had a restless night of sleep beforehand but he said Paul held his own against a skilled political veteran and a fellow Irishman.
Ryan Hughes of the UW Madison College Republicans said Ryan spelled out what the U.S. should do in the Middle East, pointed out the Obama administration’s failures, and stressed the importance of security at home. Meanwhile, at a Janesville union hall, Democrats praised Biden’s willingness to call out Ryan on the budget, Medicare, and other issues.
State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said the debate was a chance to keep the Romney-Ryan campaign “honest.” In a statement, Ryan’s Democratic opponent for his congressional seat – Kenosha’s Rob Zerban – said Ryan put on a quote, “embarrassing performance” that “continued his disturbing pattern of dishonesty” about the wars overseas, unemployment, and his Medicare overhaul.
The Associated Press interviewed voters around the country and while they had little agreement on who won, they said a vice-presidential debate that’s normally inconsequential really mattered this year because of the closeness of the contest – and what’s at stake. A college student in Georgia liked how Biden went on the attack. An older Republican woman in Pittsburgh said Biden laughed at Ryan and made fun of him all night, and there was no reason for it.
Romney 'outraged' by Corps' inaction on Asian carp
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he’s “outraged” that Army Corps of Engineers is not moving faster on a plan to keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
In an e-mail to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Romney said Thursday he’s deeply concerned about the threat posed to the lakes and his home state of Michigan and the candidate said he’s outraged that “We are still years away from a recommendation” even though Congress asked the Corps five years ago to start investigating.
The Army Corps is studying the best ways to close the water links between the carp-infested Mississippi River and Lake Michigan at Chicago. One Asian carp has been spotted close to there – and the carp’s DNA has been spotted at dozens of locations beyond an electronic barrier that’s meant to keep the carp at bay.
The Corps was planning to take until 2015 to complete its study but President Obama and Congress passed a law to require a report next year. The Corps says it won’t meet the deadline, and it will offer a range of options instead of a single solution.
On Friday, Obama aide Jacob Lew said the president has taken an “aggressive, unprecedented approach” to the problem – and he’s not sure how much more Romney can do. Lew said the White House has spent four years on the matter, and he attacked Romney by saying “We haven’t waited for a campaign to take this issue on.”
Fall color season fleeting fast
Strong winds have shortened Wisconsin’s fall color season. There’s still time to enjoy the majestic red, yellow, and green trees – but Friday might be one of the last opportunities.
Sunny and clear weather is in the forecast through this evening. Showers and thunderstorms are predicted for Saturday and Sunday morning. And they’ll knock down many of the remaining leaves.
The good news is that residents don’t have to travel far to see some bright fall colors today. Thirty-five counties are at 100 percent of their peaks, and they’re sprinkled all over the Badger State. Also, Lafayette, Iowa, and Jefferson counties still report colors at 60- to 70-percent of their peaks. But almost half of Wisconsin counties are past their peaks – including a few in the south which normally don’t peak until late October.
Travel Wisconsin-Dot-Com has a map which shows the color conditions in every county, plus lists of fall festival and other fun spots.
Mourners gather to remember 10 killed a decade ago
About 40 people gathered in Sheboygan County Thursday to remember those killed and injured a decade ago in Wisconsin’s deadliest traffic crash ever.
Thursday was the 10th anniversary of the crash, which occurred in heavy fog on southbound I-43 near Cedar Grove. Ten people were killed and almost 40 were injured as vehicles piled on top of one another
Survivors of the crash attended the anniversary gathering, along with victims’ relatives and rescuers who responded. A granite memorial was set up eight years ago by a group called the Oct. 11th Memorial Association. It has the names of those killed in the foggy crash. Sheboygan County Sheriff Todd Priebe told the gathering that his daughter is about to get her driver’s license – and he’ll take her to the memorial as a teaching tool.
It’s not exactly known how the crash started, or who was responsible. But authorities said at the time that some drivers were going the 65-speed limit despite having virtually no visibility in front of them.
Pediatrician is free on bond, facing molestation charge
EAU CLAIRE -- A pediatrician from Eau Claire is free on a signature bond, after he was accused of molesting a 16-year-old patient.
Dr. David Van De Loo is charged with two felony counts of exposure and second-degree sexual assault by a child welfare or care employee.
According to prosecutors, the victim’s parents said their son was sexually assaulted during an exam at the Mayo Clinic’s facility in Eau Claire. Police investigated, and the 60-year-old Van De Loo was fired Sept. 12th. His lawyer said Van De Loo might have used poor judgment – but he’s not guilty of a sexual assault.
He’s due back in court Oct. 29th.
Top state Republicans ostracize Rep. Rivard for 'some girls rape easy' comment
RICE LAKE -- Some top Wisconsin Republicans distanced themselves from GOP State Representative Roger Rivard of Rice Lake, after his comment that “some girls rape easy” hit the news Thursday.
Gov. Scott Walker, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson all withdrew their endorsements of Rivard in his November race with Democrat Stephen Smith.
The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee withdrew its financial support for Rivard. Wausau area Congressman Sean Duffy said he would donate money he received from Rivard to a domestic abuse shelter. And U-S Senate candidate Tommy Thompson was critical.
Rivard was commenting on a high school rape case last December when he told a Chetek newspaper that his father warned him that “some girls rape easy” – meaning they could have consensual sex and claim later it was rape. After Smith made it a campaign issue, Rivard said the remarks were quoted out of context.
He said it was a warning to him to avoid pre-marital sex, and he said Wednesday that rape is a “horrible act of violence.” But apparently, the damage had been done.
A Ryan spokesman said Rivard’s statements were “outrageous and offensive.” Walker said voters would have to decide whether Rivard has accounted for quote, “these indefensible comments.” A Johnson spokesman called it “alarming and destructive.” Representative Robin Vos, who heads the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, said he cannot stand behind Rivard.
Couple faces challenges on Mississippi River trip
Minnesota couple is boating down the Mississippi River to New Orleans – but it’s not exactly a smooth journey.
Andrew Melby and Dawn Brodey left St. Paul early this week on a boat called “The Road.” And their trip along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border was harrowing to say the least.
Brodey said they had a rough time maneuvering around slow barges and tight locks at three locations. She lamented not being able to take the wheel across Lake Pepin, because of cold and rainy weather. They lost a starboard engine but on their fourth day, they were limping through Iowa while lining up a mechanic at Dubuque. They arrived in Dubuque Thursday night, and they anchored down for the evening.
Melby and Brodey expect to make it to the Gulf of Mexico by Halloween – just 19 days away.
Health officials join police agencies in death investigation at mental health facility
MILWAUKEE -- Prosecutors and state health officials have joined police agencies in investigating a man’s death at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex.
Officials said 25-year-old Brandon Johnson died last Saturday from a broken neck which caused a blood clot to form in one of his legs. It traveled up to his lungs, and Johnson suffered a pulmonary embolism as a result.
Sheriff’s investigators and Milwaukee Police were called to a home Oct. 3rd where a man was acting irrationally and he was in handcuffs and leg irons when he was admitted to the county’s Behavioral Health Division.
Johnson died at the facility last weekend. He was the fifth patient to die at Milwaukee’s Mental Health Complex this year.
District Attorney John Chisholm said Thursday that his office has joined the investigation by sheriff’s deputies and Milwaukee Police. The state health services department’s Quality Assurance Division is also investigating.
Johnson’s relatives said they’ve hired an attorney to look into the death on their behalf.
Supreme Court will hear cases in Green County next month
MONROE -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases next month at the historic Green County Courthouse in Monroe.
The 121-year-old courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places – and the state’s highest court will hear oral arguments there on Nov. 5th. Those arguments will run about an hour for each case.
The public is invited to look on, but they’re encouraged to make reservations with the court to guarantee a spot. Local leaders will welcome the justices before the proceedings begin.
They’ll also speak at a senior center, and have lunch at Turner Hall in Monroe.
The State Supreme Court holds proceedings outside of Madison on ocassion to give Wisconsinites a closer view of the state’s justice system.
Rollover near Sparta kills LaCrosse man
A La Crosse man killed in a one-car crash on the Interstate near Sparta has been identified as Willard Large, age 49.
The State Patrol said he was driving west on Interstate 90 when his auto veered out of control and rolled over several times.
Large was ejected, and he died at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt.
The crash occurred just after 5 a.m., Thursday.