MILWAUKEE - The celebrity news outlet TMZ said today that Milwaukee Brewers' slugger Ryan Braun tested positive for medication he's taking for a private medical issue - and it was not the performance-enhancing drug that ESPN reported nine days ago.
TMZ said the nature of Braun's ailment was not clear. Braun, the National League's Most Valuable Player this year, has staunchly proclaimed his innocence to using PED's banned by Major League Baseball. He and his agents have repeatedly said the 28-year-old Milwaukee left-fielder did not intentionally violate the game's rules. But intentional or not, Braun faces a 50-game suspension at the start of next season if an arbitrator rules that Braun took the substance. The arbitration hearing is set for January or February. No Major League player has ever had a positive drug test overturned by Major League officials.
Prosecutors in Sheboygan are considering criminal charges against the city's embattled mayor. Officials said yesterday that Fond du Lac County deputies investigated Mayor Bob Ryan, as part of the City Council's ongoing probe into his possible removal from office. And they recommended two misdemeanor sexual assault counts for quote, "uninvited sexual contact" during the three-day drinking binge he admitted having in Elkhart Lake in July. The DA's office says it's still reviewing the matter, which was made public in a Council resolution to temporarily halt its investigation. The aldermen voted 12-2 last night to suspend the probe while a recall election against Ryan takes place. A primary is set for January 17th. Ryan is targeted for three alcohol-related episodes during his two-and-a-half years as Sheboygan's mayor. But Ryan denied the sexual assault allegations and said the Council resolution contained quote, "any rumor, innuendo, accusation, or allegation that has come up over the last five months." And Ryan said it was a political "smear" just a month before the recall vote. The city's attorney's denied such motivation.
The state Assembly speaker's office says it's wrong to assume that Gogebic Taconite wrote the bill that makes it easier for them to run an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. Critics made the assertion last week at a public hearing on the bill, after majority Assembly Republicans refused to say who the main sponsors were. Today, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said five Assembly Republicans, top DNR officials, the state's largest business group, and Gogebic Taconite all provided months of input on the 183-page bill. And no Democrats or outside environmental groups were consulted. The Assembly is expected to pass the measure early next year. It calls for a 360-day time limit to act on mining applications once they're submitted -- and the paper said the major parties all agreed to it. Assembly Finance chair Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington) proposed that the state get half of all mining tax revenues, instead of the local area keeping it all. But local officials and the mining firm opposed that, and Majority Leader Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) expects it to be amended. The Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce came up with a ban on contested-case hearings, where opponents could tie up mining projects. WMC's Scott Manley called that a "lawsuit built into the permitting process." No one could say who proposed a relaxing of wetland and groundwater protection requirements for iron ore mines. But WMC's Manley said businesses do want wetland reforms. Besides Suder and Vos, Assembly Republicans Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee), Rep. Mary Williams (R-Medford), and Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) were involved in drafting the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Walker administration to wait at least until January before enforcing its new policy on protests at the State Capitol. In the meantime, the group says it hopes to work with the administration on changes to the policy. And without those changes, the ACLU says it will challenge the new rules in court. The rules took full effect yesterday. They require advance permits for planned activities and demonstrations by four-or-more people -- with exceptions for families, lobbyists, and those just handing out leaflets. The policy also gives the state the option of charging groups for extra police protection and clean-up costs. The administration department's Jocelyn Webster has said that no one would be arrested for breaking the new rules. Groups without permits will be asked to get them, and Webster says activities with permits would have top priority. ACLU attorney William Turner and four Democratic lawmakers called the rules an infringement on free speech yesterday. Turner called it an attempt to quote, "forestall the kind of protests that happened last February."
An autopsy is planned for a 31-year-old man who was shot in the neck over the weekend near Wisconsin Rapids. Nick Hoffmann of Wisconsin Rapids died yesterday at a Marshfield hospital. The shooting was reported early Sunday morning at a home in the Wood County town of Grand Rapids, just east of Wisconsin Rapids. Town Police Chief Dave Lewandowski said it might have been accidental. A 21-year-old man was arrested on a possible charge of reckless endangerment. He's free on a $2,500 bond, with an initial court appearance set for January 23rd.
A missing Lake Geneva girl who was the subject of a statewide Amber Alert last night was found safe in Elkhorn. Police said 13-year-old Courtney Harshman was with Jacob Cambridge. He was arrested after officers stopped his vehicle just after seven p-m, about a half-hour after the alert was issued. The alert said the Harshman girl could have been with Cambridge in a car with Nebraska license plates. Authorities did not say how the vehicle was found, or what charges Cambridge might face.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is raising a lot more money than those trying to recall him from office. Since July, fundraising for the governor's campaign war chest has topped five million dollars. About half of that money comes from outside Wisconsin. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the committee supporting the recall, United Wisconsin, have raised less than one-third that amount - about one and a half million dollars.
Governor Scott Walker will give the keynote address at the nation's largest gathering of conservative leaders. The American Conservative Union says Walker will speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on February 9. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich will also speak at that event - along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and conservative commentator Ann Coulter. Al Cardenas, who chairs the conservative union, says Walker is a hero of the movement - and he's been a model for how to make government more cost-effective.
The Christmas holiday is a little happier thanks to the efforts of the Empty Stocking Club. More than 4,100 Madison-area families are being helped. The annual toy distribution effort topped 11 thousand gifts last week. Toys were given out by the Holiday Toy Depot. The Empty Stocking Club was formed more than 90 years ago by the staff and friends of the Wisconsin State Journal.
A doctor's report on the mental health of Annettee Morales-Rodriguez is to be delivered Friday, including an evaluation on whether the Milwaukee woman is fit to stand trial. Morales-Rodriguez is accused of killing a pregnant woman for her fetus. Prosecutors say she murdered Maritza Ramirez-Cruz, then cut her unborn baby out of her belly. Both the mother and the baby died. Trial is scheduled to start in March.
The biggest threat for having your identity stolen may be right there in your house. A spokesperson for the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups says almost 60 percent of all identity theft cases in the state last year were carried out by family members. The 50 thousand cases included parents using a child's social security number to get credit cards, all the way to people using the bank account information of an elderly relative. A coalition spokesman says there are likely many more ID theft cases not reported because the victim doesn't want to get a family member in legal trouble. The coalition plans to hold training sessions early next year to help people avoid being the victims of identity theft.
Starting today, all University of Wisconsin employees must report child abuse or neglect to authorities, any time they suspect it. Governor Scott Walker signed an executive order that seeks to avoid what happened at Penn State - where top officials failed to report child sex abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The Republican Walker made it clear that his order was the result of nothing that happened in Wisconsin - and avoiding a Penn State-type scandal was his only motive. The order states that UW officials must report child abuse immediately or face criminal charges. Walker said he wanted no gaps, and no possibilities for error. UW officials and state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen joined Walker at a news conference in Milwaukee. UW President Kevin Reilly called today's action "reasonable," and it will provide re-assurance to thousands of families who enroll their kids at UW sports clinics, music clinics, and other campus programs for youngsters.
A firm that's buying almost 73,000 acres of forests from the Wausau Paper company says it will manage the property just like the current owner has done. Wausau Paper said late on Friday it would sell a total of over 80,000 acres in northern Wisconsin. The Lyme Timber Company is buying most of it. Its managing director, Peter Stein, says Lyme Timber will supply wood to Wausau Paper for its pulp and paper operations - and there will be no "near term" changes. Stein says his company will probably ask the state to buy a conservation easement to prohibit its forests from other possible developments close by. Stein says it's a common practice for Lyme Timber's other forest land in eight states in the East-and-Southeast U.S.
For the first time, Brown County's drunk driving task force will be on the prowl after a Green Bay Packers' game. Michael Panosh of the State Patrol said his multi-agency unit has had a lot of requests to increase its OWI enforcement, to catch those who drink over the limit at Lambeau. So his group of state-and-local officers will look for drunk driving offenders for four hours after the Packers' home divisional playoff game the weekend of January 14th-and-15th. And if the Packers make the NFC Championship Game, the task force will be on the job then, too. They will not be outside the final two regular season games on Christmas and New Year's Days, because fewer officers work on the holidays. The Packers do not have a partnership with the task force. But team spokesman Aaron Popkey says they are mindful of the OWI problem. He says the Packers have had a number of long-time programs to encourage responsible drinking - limiting alcohol to two glasses per purchase, and stopping sales after the third quarter. The team also has a designated driver program and free bus rides on Green Bay's transit system.
The Wisconsin-based American Transmission Company will help build a 950-mile power line from Wyoming to Nevada. ATC of Pewaukee and a joint venture partner, Duke Energy, acquired the project from the Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy firm. The price was not disclosed. Pathfinder is building a 100,000 acre wind farm near Chugwater, Wyoming. The half-million-volt transmission line would go from there to near Las Vegas - where it will hook up with other facilities to send power to California. The new line is expected to cost three-and-a-half billion dollars. It's expected to help meet California's goal of generating one-third of its power from renewable sources. The new line is project to start operating in 2020. It would be the first transmission line outside the Midwest for ATC and Duke Energy.
The wheels are turning today at Wisconsin's largest wind energy farm. We Energies announced the opening of the Glacier Hills Wind Park east of Portage. Ninety high-tech windmills are spread across 17,000 acres of farm land. They're expected to produce 162 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power 45-thousand homes over the course of a year. We Energies says the final cost will be less than the $364-million authorized by the state Public Service Commission. We Energies -- the state's largest utility -- also runs an 88-turbine wind farm in Fond du Lac County. The company is also working on a bio-mass plant in Rothschild, south of Wausau. When that's done, We Energies says it will meet a state standard for providing eight-percent of its power from renewable sources by 2015.
Some state lawmakers say it's wrong not to give jobless benefits to workers who were laid off because another part of their plant went on strike. That's what happened to 156 employees at Manitowoc Cranes last month. Members of a boilermakers union were laid off four days after 200 machinists in another union went on strike -- and the boilermakers did not get state unemployment benefits. Today, Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison and Senate Democrat Bob Wirch of Kenosha introduced a bill to change that. They said the boilermakers lost work through no fault of their own -- and they called the denial of benefits a "giant loophole" that hurts families. Pocan said it's not a partisan issue, since Manitowoc Assembly Independent Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc has co-sponsored the bill along with GOP lawmakers in the area of the plant. They include Senate Republican Joe Liebham of Sheboygan and Green Bay area Representative Andre Jacque.
Oshkosh Police are investigating the death of a 15-year-old boy who fell through the ice on a pond at a quarry. Authorities said two teens were walking at the Zillges Materials' quarry when they broke through the ice around six last evening. The survivor left the water and ran to a nearby house where one of their parents called for help. Rescue divers found the other boy under the water. He was taken to an Oshkosh hospital, where he died. The victim's name was not immediately released. The Winnebago County coroner has ruled the death an accidental drowning.
The state Judicial Commission was asked today to investigate Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, for reportedly getting free legal services from a law firm whose cases he has ruled on. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a formal request for a probe, after the law firm of Michael Best and Friedrich told the justices last week about its arrangement with Gableman. If the Judicial Commission finds wrongdoing, it would ask the Supreme Court to consider punishing its fellow justice. The firm's Eric McLeod and Indiana lawyer James Bopp represented Gableman in an ethics complaint dealing with a TV ad during Gableman's 2008 Supreme Court election campaign. The justices split 3-3 on the question of whether the ad violated the state's judicial code of ethics. A representative of Michael Best told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Gableman would have paid legal fees to the firm, had the State Claims Board agreed to have the state reimburse him -- but it didn't. Now, Gableman faces allegations that he broke the judicial code by taking something of value -- namely thousands-of-dollars in legal services -- from a firm that appears before the Supreme Court. Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe says he's also considering a complaint against Gableman with the Government Accountability Board. It has a separate policy against public officials taking anything of value in the course of their jobs.
A man who paid seven-thousand-dollars to have his ex-girlfriend killed so he could have sole custody of their child will spend the rest of his life in prison. Waukesha County Circuit Judge James Kieffer sentenced Darren Wold to life with no chance for a supervised release. He and Jack Johnson hired Justin Welch, who stabbed 39-year-old Kimberly Smith to death at her home in Oconomowoc in October of 2009. Johnson was recently given a life term with no chance at freedom. Welch will spend at least 52 years behind bars before he gets his first chance for a release at age 70. During a two-hour hearing today, Wold never looked at the victim's family -- or at a slide show of Smith and her son. Smith's sister, Laurie Zanotti, told Wold quote, "You left us a lifetime of picking up your pieces." Wold proclaimed his innocence and said his recent trial was a witch hunt. Judge Kieffer asked Wold why he ignores the truth. The judge told him quote, "You lost it all because of your anger, hatred, and defiance." After he was convicted, Wold went on a hunger strike -- and Kieffer told Waukesha County authorities to feed him against his will. He has since resumed eating.
Sheriff's departments throughout Wisconsin are saving thousands-of-dollars by having private operators transport suspects to their home counties to face charges. Former Brown County deputy Gregg Haney said he used to travel from Green Bay to Milwaukee to pick up a prisoner, and pass a Milwaukee sheriff's car heading north for the same purpose. The law requires deputies to make only one transfer per round trip, but Haney said it's a waste of money -- and that's how he got the idea to start his own transport company called Wisconsin Lock-and-Load. He now contracts with 42 counties, transferring inmates on both parts of a round trip. And that's saving counties an estimated 40-percent in their transport costs. Brown County pays just over $350,000 dollars a year to have Haney bring them up to 2,500 prisoners a year -- including those picked up in other states.
State officials are deciding whether to end a contract with Planned Parenthood to help women in four eastern Wisconsin counties get cancer screenings. The state has a $138,000 contract for the service, but it expires at the end of the year. State health official Beth Kaplan says her agency will continue the screenings regardless of who ends up getting the contract. In most places, county health departments help women get cancer screenings. But in Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Winnebago, and Outagamie counties, two case-workers from Planned Parenthood offer the service. The group does not directly administer the cancer screenings. Republicans have criticized Planned Parenthood because some of its other work involves abortions and contraceptive services.
A Racine County woman was arrested for child neglect, after her two-year-old son was found outside an apartment wearing just a T-shirt and a diaper. A neighbor found the toddler about 7:50 yesterday morning in a parking lot in Caledonia. Police canvassed the area, but could not find the parents. Then around noon, a 22-year-old woman told police she was looking for the boy. She was arrested, and was still in jail as of late last night under a -hundred-dollar bond. Police said the child could have been outside for a half-hour. Lieutenant Gary Larsen said it was fortunate it was 38-degrees at the time. Had it been windy and 10-above, he said the child would have huddled somewhere and possibly died. The boy's father is the woman's boyfriend. The 25-year-old man told the Racine Journal-Times his girlfriend is a good mother -- and she might have fallen back to sleep while the youngster figured out the safety latch to their apartment door. The man was working in Kenosha at the time.
Two men are free while facing possible disorderly conduct charges for allegedly spitting on people gathering recall petitions against Governor Scott Walker. Iowa County sheriff's deputies said the incident happened Saturday in the village of Arena. Both suspects have posted bond. They're 55 and 28 years old, both from Barneveld.
A second bill is being proposed to make it a crime to sign recall petitions more than once in Wisconsin. Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend is offering a more lenient measure than one proposed last week by GOP Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon. Grothman wants to make signing duplicate petitions a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months in a county jail. He says he's open to making it a felony for those who sign the same petition five-or-more times. Fitzgerald's measure would make any duplicate petition signings a felony, with possible time in a state prison. Both he and Grothman are currently seeking co-sponsors for their measures. The state elections' agency does not find and omit multiple signatures. That's up to the petitioners, and those who challenge the signatures after they're filed with the state.
More people are buying homes in Wisconsin. The state Realtors Association reports a 15-percent increase in existing home sales in November, compared to a year ago. Realtors sold 38-hundred-29 houses last month throughout Wisconsin, up from 33-hundred-34 in November of 2010. But despite a higher demand, the median selling price still went down about two-percent. It was 134-thousand dollars last month, down from 137-thousand the previous November. For the first 11 months of the year, home sales by Realtors had dropped by less than one-percent from the year before, totaling just over 48,000. Association chairman Rob Keefe said buyers did not have major incentives this year, like the huge federal tax credits from the year before. Median prices are down just over six-percent for the year as a whole, while the numbers of available houses are still high. Realtors' CEO Mike Theo says buyers will be in the driver's seat for awhile. And while the economy's getting better, he says many potential home buyers won't dive into the market until there are sustained improvements in employment and consumer confidence.
No citations will be issued against a Milwaukee newspaper photographer arrested while covering an Occupy Wall Street demonstration a month-and-a-half ago. The city attorney's office said today it would not charge Krystyna Wentz-Graff of the Journal Sentinel, who was arrested November second while taking photos of demonstrators on a street just outside the UW-Milwaukee campus. Police said they had no idea Wentz-Graff was a media photographer - even though one photo clearly showed her wearing her Journal-Sentinel credentials while she was being handcuffed. The arrest came after a Milwaukee TV photographer was arrested while covering a fire in September. The city dropped charges in that case last week.
Slippery roads might be to blame for a traffic death Monday morning in northeast Wisconsin. Brown County authorities said a Green Bay area man was killed around five a.m. when his vehicle slid out of control and rolled over on the northbound Highway 41 expressway west of Green Bay in the town of Lawrence. The state DOT said roads were icy from the Green Bay area south to Sheboygan. A few major highways in south central Wisconsin had slippery spots, but most were in good winter driving condition.
In Marathon County, authorities are still investigating a weekend traffic crash that killed two men from Medford. 24-year-old Abraham Gilles and 21-year-old Mathew Olson were thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. A third person walked away unharmed. The crash happened Saturday night near Athens on Marathon County Trunk "C" in the town of Bern. Deputies said the car hit a sign and overturned. Investigators said high speed and alcohol were factors in the mishap.
It looked a lot more like Christmas throughout Wisconsin this past weekend. The tree lots were busy, folks got around to mailing out cards, and stores had lots of gift buyers. Brenda Vento of Milwaukee's Mayfair Mall says the weekend before Christmas is the second busiest period for sales, behind only Black Friday. Vento said Mayfair has had a 3-to-5-percent sales increase this holiday season compared to a year ago.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Milwaukee said it recovered almost 74-million-dollars in the last fiscal year for victims of fraud cases. About two-thirds of that came from Rickey Kanter, the former owner of Doctor Comfort in Mequon that makes shoe-inserts for diabetics. It was a Medicare fraud case, so the federal government got most of the reimbursement. But in many cases, individuals and businesses often get back at least part of the money of which they were defrauded. U.S. Attorney James Santelle said his office collected about nine times the amount of its yearly budget. Nationally, the Justice Department collected about six-and-a-half billion dollars in criminal and civil fraud reimbursements in the year ending September 30th. That includes four-billion in civil cases. In the Mequon case, Doctor Comfort was sold to a California company for over a quarter-billion-dollars, about a month before Kanter was charged with mail fraud. Kanter admitted taking reimbursements from Medicare for shoe inserts that did not meet federal standards.