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Across the Region: Law toughens Wisconsin drunken driving penalties

WISCONSIN

Law toughens drunken driving penalties

Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill creating tougher drunken driving penalties.

The proposal makes a fourth drunken driving offense a felony regardless of when it occurred. Currently, a fourth offense is a felony only if committed within five years of a third.

The legislation also increases the maximum prison sentence for fifth and sixth offenses from three years to five. Maximum sentences for seventh, eighth and ninth offenses increase from five years to seven and a half. The maximum sentence for a 10th or subsequent offense will rise from seven and a half years to a decade.

Walker said the bill sends a message that Wisconsin is serious about drunken driving. However, Wisconsin remains the only state in the country that doesn’t criminalize a first offense.

 

Man accused of decapitating mother competent for trial

A Sun Prairie man accused of killing his mother with a sword has been ruled competent to stand trial.

Matthew Skalitzy was found incompetent last October and sent to a state mental health institution. Skalitzy is accused of decapitating his mother, 68-year-old Jane Skalitzky, on Sept. 11. He’s charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

A judge in Dane County Monday decided Skalitzy was competent to proceed and ordered him to continue taking his medication.

Prosecutors say Skakiltzy was mentally ill and saw people, including his mother, as inhuman clones.

 

Judge refuses to stay right-to-work ruling

A Dane County judge refused Monday to stay his ruling striking down Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, reiterating his position that the legislation wrongly enables non-union workers to receive free representation.

Judge William Foust said he doesn’t believe state attorneys have shown they’ll overturn his decision on appeal and have no evidence the state would suffer if his ruling stands. He said the core of his ruling is whether a union has to provide free services.

“The decision boils down to something as simple as ‘there is no free lunch,’” the judge said.

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is defending the law, immediately said he’ll seek a stay from a state appeals court “where we feel confident this law will be upheld.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Since unions must represent all employees in a workplace, the laws essentially allow non-union workers to benefit from union representation for free. Twenty-five states have such laws. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s version last year.

Three unions — the AFL-CIO’s Wisconsin chapter, Machinists Local Lodge 1061 and United Steelworkers District 2 — filed a lawsuit challenging the law in March 2015, arguing the statutes amount to an illegal taking of their services without compensation.

Foust found the law unconstitutional earlier this month. The state Justice Department asked Foust last week to stay the ruling. They filed notice of appeal the same day with the Wausau-based 3rd District Court of Appeals.

Assistant Attorney General Steven Kilpatrick argued at a hearing Monday that the judge should grant the stay because the state likely will win the appeal, all statutes are presumed constitutional and the state suffers harm any time it can’t enforce a law and unions aren’t likely to suffer substantial harm if the law remains in place pending the appeal.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Artifact search underway at site of $10M courthouse project

Researchers are working to determine if American Indian artifacts lie beneath the site of a $10 million courthouse expansion project in Stanton.

Bones discovered earlier this month when asphalt was removed from the Mercer County Courthouse parking lot to make way for a bigger building turned out to be only bison and bird bones. However, the area is known to be the site of an old Hidatsa village, so an archaeological team is taking a deeper look at what’s beneath the parking lot.

Researchers in particular are looking for the possible remains of an earth lodge.

“If we find it, no ground disturbance will happen without us,” cultural resource specialist Melinda McCarthy said.

Any American Indian artifacts that are found will be turned over to state and tribal historic preservation officials.

The county budgeted for the possibility of archaeological work being necessary, setting aside $116,000, Commission Chairman Bill Tveit said.

The work also shouldn’t change the project completion date of fall 2017, because mild spring weather allowed for an early start, construction manager Travis Fuechtmann said.

“What to do with the unknown? We are finding ways to work together,” he said.

 

Grand Forks man gets life for dealing meth

A Grand Forks man accused of leading a large drug-trafficking operation has been sentenced to life in prison.

A federal jury in May found 38-year-old Jose Delacruz guilty on two counts, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Authorities say Delacruz distributed large amounts of meth in the Grand Forks area. The charge carried a mandatory life sentence because Delacruz had two prior drug convictions.

Four other defendants accused in the case have received prison sentences ranging between 2½ and 10 years.

Delacruz also was convicted for pistol-whipping a fellow drug dealer in Grand Forks whom Delacruz accused of cooperating with law enforcement.

U.S. Attorney Chris Myers says local and federal authorities worked together to dismantle the drug ring and “stop the violent conduct” by Delacruz.

 

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