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Report: State prison costs grow five times the rate of school expenses; mixed reviews follow Trump visit with congressional Republicans; 11 more state news stories

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The cost of sending people to prison has gone up five times as fast as the cost of educating children in Wisconsin.

The U.S. Education Department said Thursday that the cost of running jails and prisons in the Badger State grew by 351 percent from 1979 through 2013 -- while costs for kindergarten through 12th grade schools rose by 72 percent.

The spending gap was higher than average in Wisconsin, as national prison expenses rose three times as quickly as school costs. Education Secretary John King says budgets reflect values, and it's clear that America needs to invest more in schools than prisons, and "prevention than punishment."

Wisconsin legislative leaders have not commented, and Milwaukee public school officials refused comment on the federal report.


Wisconsin House Republicans have mixed reaction to Trump meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 200 U.S. House Republicans met with Donald Trump on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville called it a "great" meeting in which the likely GOP White House nominee made it clear he wants to work with Congress -- but reactions were mixed among a couple of other Wisconsin Republicans.

Retiring Congressman Reid Ribble of Sherwood tells the Journal Sentinel that Trump opponents like himself were not swayed, those on the fence stayed that way, and supporters found new reasons to like the New York real estate mogul. Ribble said Trump said nothing that would unify Republicans, as he laid out his policy agenda.

But Trump supporter Sean Duffy, a House Republican from Wausau, said it's apparent Trump wants to fight for the same things as everyone -- and on economic growth and national security, he's "way better than Hillary" Clinton.


State arrests 87 in national sweep of online child sex predators

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Justice Department has announced 87 arrests as part of a national effort to nab online child sex predators.

More than 40 federal and local law enforcement agencies joined the state in a one week campaign called "Operation Broken Heart." It resulted in almost 1,400 arrests nationally, as officers targeted those involved with child pornogrpahy, child sex trafficking, and using the Internet to lure youngsters for sex. The enforcement campaign took place in April and May, and the results were announced Thursday. State Attorney General Brad Schimel says Wisconsin's task force on Internet Crimes Against Children took the lead in the state's part of the national sweep.


Wisconsin teacher, coach accused of molesting kids in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A Milwaukee area teacher is under arrest for allegedly groping young swimmers at a Disney resort in Orlando, Fla.

Twenty-six-year-old Nicholas Groth of Oak Creek was sent to jail without bond Thursday on five counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. Investigators say Groth touched the buttocks of three youngsters under 15 while he played catch and swam with them at Disney's Pop Century Resort on the July Fourth weekend -- and officials say he did not stop when he was asked to do so.

The Orlando Sentinel says Groth was in Florida as an assistant coach with the Racine Rally "Under 14" baseball team, which was playing in a Disney tournament. Groth teaches second grade at Willow Glen in Saint Francis in suburban Milwaukee.


Restaurant owner pleads guilty to tax evasion

MILWAUKEE -- The owner of a Milwaukee restaurant has pleaded guilty to evading federal taxes.

Prosecutors say they'll recommend six months in jail for 69-year-old Gus Koutromanos of New Berlin, if he pays $50,000 of his back taxes by the time he's sentenced in September. Investigators say Koutromanos failed to pay $100,000 of his obligations for payroll taxes, after he paid employees in cash during a six month period in 2012. He's convicted on one charge of tax evasion.


Survey: Milwaukee, Madison rank above average for outdoor recreation

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wisconsin's two largest cities are better than most in providing good outdoor recreation.

Madison is 23rd, and Milwaukee 39th on a list of the Top 100 U.S. cities for the quality of parks, museums, concert venues, and festivals. The Washington financial website WalletHub checked out 35 factors in its survey --- which cited Madison's quality of its recreation and entertainment, while Milwaukee's best virtue was the low cost of its offerings. Climate was also a factor -- and of course, the cold winters helped drive down the Wisconsin scores.

Orlando, Florida was ranked Number One, and Minneapolis ninth as WalletHub encouraged people to get outside during July -- which is National Park and Recreation Month.


Johnson may still hold Senate hearing on Clinton emails

Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson says his Senate Homeland Security panel might hold its own hearing on the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for the way she handled classified data as Secretary of State.

Johnson says he'll read transcripts from a House hearing Thursday before deciding if there are still "legitimate questions" that need to be answered. The Republican Johnson told WLUK-TV in Green Bay that Clinton's use of private email servers for classified data could have put people's lives in danger -- and anyone else in the State Department who did that "would have had their security clearance yanked."

Johnson's election opponent, former Senate Democrat Russ Feingold, said in Milwaukee Thursday he was "troubled" by Clinton's actions. But in a Green Bay appearance, Feingold said people know that the email incidents are not the basis for choosing the next president, and he accused Johnson and other Republicans of prolonging the controversy to score political points.


Prosecutors: Driver was 'huffing' before causing pedestrian death

JUNEAU -- Dodge County prosecutors say a 21-year-old driver breathed in fumes from a computer keyboard cleaner before he struck and killed a teenage pedestrian.

Cody Buechel of Reeseville is due in court July 25, after he was charged Thursday with negligent homicide and two misdemeanor counts of possessing drug paraphernalia. Sheriff Dale Schmitt says Buechel drove on the wrong side of County Trunk G in Lowell last Sept. 28 when his vehicle struck 17-year-old Lukas Jaeger.

Investigators said Buechel was "huffing" just before he started driving, and five friends walking with Jaeger escaped injury. Officials said there was no evidence Buechel hit the brakes or tried evading the group of walkers.


Charges: Milwaukee man ran sex trafficking, drug businesses

MILWAUKEE -- Federal prosecutors say a 30-year-old Milwaukee man ran a sex trafficking business in seven states and Washington, D.C., while he was on probation for armed robbery.

Jaboree Williams is due back in federal court Wednesday on a new sex trafficking charge -- and he's been jailed since last summer when he was arrested in Oshkosh for allegedly selling heroin, marijuana, and painkillers. Prosecutors say Williams had one of his female sex trafficking victims introduce him to possible drug buyers in Oshkosh.

A second defendant, Chrystal Schuppe, was arrested last week -- and she's charged with conspiracy for allegedly buying and renting cars that Williams reportedly used to transport sex victims.


Power finally restored to Madison area

MADISON -- Madison's electric utility has finally restored power to all of its customers, after some were in the dark for almost two days.

About 18,000 Madison Gas and Electric customers lost their service as strong windstorms moved through the area late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Almost 600 were still in the dark at midday Thursday.

The utility received help from We Energies as all customers got back on line by the end of Thursday.


Two teens go on 'car shopping' spree

MADISON -- Madison police arrested two juveniles shortly after a witness called, reporting them for trying to get into parked cars on the city's southwest side.

Investigators say the teens told them had managed to break into about 20 cars this week alone, stealing three. The 16-year-old boy from Madison and a 14-year-old from Fort Atkinson are being held in the Dane County Juvenile Reception Center on tentative charges of car theft. The two said they tried to get into an estimated 60 cars after running away from a Milwaukee-area treatment center Monday.


Man arrested for break-in says girlfriend chased him off with 'battle ax'

BARABOO -- Sauk County authorities have charged a 24-year-old man with offenses like false imprisonment and domestic abuse after an incident in Baraboo last month.

Alexander A. Raymond admits breaking into his ex-girlfriend's house by coming through a window. He was carrying a fake gun when she chased him off with a battle ax. Raymond has a pretrial conference scheduled for July 29.

He admitted to investigators he was drunk when he tried to confront the woman about their break-up, which happened six months ago.


Man out on bail for car theft accused of stealing SUV

MEQUON -- A 21-year-old eastern Wisconsin man is charged with stealing an SUV.

Police say Jonathan Jasper jumped in the running vehicle and drove to its owner's home. He was free on bail while facing charges he stole six cars in Washington County at the time. He's accused of using the garage door opener to break in, but he was confronted by the wife of the SUV owner. Jasper was eventually arrested at a Mequon strip shopping center.