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Across the Region: Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court says blood draw legal

WISCONSIN

Judge: Adult prison safer than juvenile prison

State prosecutors took the unusual step of acknowledging Wisconsin’s troubled youth prison is too dangerous for juveniles as they argued to move a teen into the adult system for his own protection, according to court documents released Wednesday.

Racine County Circuit Judge John S. Jude agreed that the prison was too dangerous and waived the boy into the adult system last February. The 2nd District Court of Appeals affirmed Jude’s decision Wednesday.

“I never thought I would say this, that a 16-year-old would be safer in the adult system than the juvenile justice system,” Jude said at the waiver hearing, according to the documents released Wednesday. Racine County case manager Candy Bowman testified that her department has “put somewhat of a moratorium” on sending juvenile offenders to Lincoln Hills. Racine County did not immediately respond to an inquiry Wednesday about what, if any, moratorium exists.

The Lincoln Hills juvenile prison in Irma has been plagued by allegations of prisoner abuse, child neglect and sexual assault. Racine County Circuit Judge Richard Kreul in 2012 wrote a letter alerting Gov. Scott Walker to a case in which a Lincoln Hills inmate was forced to perform oral sex on his roommate, beaten unconscious and not given medical attention for three hours.

The state began an investigation into allegations of abuse at the facility in 2015. The FBI has since taken over the investigation.

The teen in the appeals court case released Wednesday was accused of sexually assaulting a fifth-grader. The teen argued Jude improperly considered news coverage that wasn’t part of the evidence and out-of-court information about Lincoln Hills.

The appellate court found the judge should not have considered the news reports but that he properly weighed the seriousness of the crime and how little time the teen would have had left for treatment in the juvenile system since he was 14 months away from turning 18.

 

Divided Supreme Court says blood draw legal

A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court has reinstated a drunken driving conviction against a Sauk County man who argued his blood was illegally drawn.

The court overturned a state appeals court ruling with a 5-2 opinion. The appeals court had ruled that the blood draw was unconstitutional because the emergency medical technician acted under the direction of police, not a doctor.

But the Supreme Court says the blood draw was conducted in a “constitutionally reasonable manner.”

A Sauk County sheriff’s deputy arrested Patrick Kozel in August 2013 after noticing him driving erratically in Greenfield. Kozel agreed to have his blood drawn by a Baraboo District Ambulance Service EMT at the jail.

Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, saying there was insufficient evidence.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Out-of-state lawyers approved for protest cases

The North Dakota Supreme Court will allow lawyers from other states to temporarily help with cases stemming from the Dakota Access pipeline protest.

The justices said Wednesday that there’s no evidence that any defendants have been denied counsel because they couldn’t find a lawyer in North Dakota, but recognize the potential for “delay or inconvenience” due to the large number of arrests.

The high court says there have been 553 court cases filed in the state’s South Central Judicial District as of Dec. 19, resulting in assignments to 81 attorneys. A large number of arrests occurred on single days, including one day when 71 lawyers were asked to serve.

Lawyers not licensed in North Dakota are normally required to work on a case with an attorney who is approved by the state.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

State officials hope seeks U.S. ruling on sales tax

South Dakota officials are optimistic that a 1992 Supreme Court ruling saying sales taxes can’t be collected from companies not physically present in the state can be overturned.

District Court Judge Roberto Lange ordered on Tuesday that a state-filed lawsuit requiring four out-of-state internet companies remit sales taxes to the South Dakota Department of Revenue be heard in state court. The order follows a legislative passage of a bill last year requiring some out-of-state internet companies to remit sales taxes on purchases in South Dakota.

State officials believe Lange’s ruling gives the case a better chance to quickly move to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would give the state an opportunity to overturn the 1992 ruling.

 

IOWA

Ex-Iowa senator gets prison in pay-for-endorsement scheme

Former Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, who accepted money for endorsing presidential candidate Ron Paul in 2012, was sentenced to 15 months in prison Tuesday — even though prosecutors had sought only probation.

In Judge Robert Pratt’s surprise decision, he said “political corruption is slowly eroding the foundations of our Democracy” and those who betray the public trust must be punished.

Minutes before Pratt announced the sentence in federal court in Des Moines, Sorenson said he is filled with regret and apologized to the people of Iowa and his former colleagues in the Iowa Legislature. The Republican, who was a sought-after Iowa politician as GOP presidential candidates began campaigning in Iowa in advance of the January 2012 Iowa caucuses, said he was “cocky, arrogant and filled with misguided ideas” after defeating a Democratic incumbent to win his Senate seat.

Sorenson first signed on as Iowa chairman of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign but shifted support to Ron Paul just days before the caucuses. Even though Iowa Senate rules prohibit lawmakers from taking money from a political campaign, Sorenson accepted $59,000 from Bachmann’s campaign, then $73,000 for an endorsement of Paul.

Pratt allowed Sorenson, now 44, to remain free on bond and report to prison when told, likely in a few weeks.

Sorenson initially told a state Senate committee that he didn’t take the money, but he resigned in October 2013 when the committee concluded he’d taken money. He also lied to federal agents who were investigating whether the Paul campaign illegally concealed the payments but later decided to cooperate with the government.

In a plea deal, Sorensen agreed to testify against three Ron Paul campaign aides, who were charged with covering up the payments. Campaign chairman Jesse Benton and campaign manager John Tate received two years’ probation, and deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari received up to three months in prison. All are appealing their convictions.

Federal prosecutor Richard Pilger asked for two years of probation and community service for Sorenson, even though the maximum penalties for the charges he faced — causing false reports and obstructing an investigation — were 25 years in prison.

Pratt said Tuesday that Sorenson came forward only after the FBI raided his house and took evidence, and pointed out Sorenson took secret payments while serving as a publicly elected official.

“A term of incarceration is required to reflect the seriousness of the offense and deter systemic political corruption,” he said.

Outside of the courthouse, members of Sorenson’s family threateningly drove an SUV over a curb and onto the courthouse sidewalk and concrete entryway near reporters — and a few feet from the front door in an apparent attempt to shield Sorenson. A federal security agent pounded his fist on the vehicle and told the Sorenson family to get the vehicle away from the building.

The vehicle sped away as a daughter flashed an obscene hand gesture and cursed at reporters through an open window. Sorenson didn’t comment.

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