October 31, 2014

State appeals order to release Schimel training videos

The state Department of Justice is appealing a judge’s order to release a pair of training videos to Democrats.

The videos were taken during training sessions led by Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, the Republican candidate for attorney general. The state Democratic Party sought the tapes under an open records request, saying it believed the recordings may include objectionable statements made by Schimel or show misconduct by the candidate. The party then sued the Department after it refused to release them.

The DOJ cited concerns about the privacy of victims and that criminals could use them to identify tactics used by prosecutors. A Dane County judge rejected those arguments on Thursday, ordering the agency to make the tapes public by this afternoon.

The appeal filed by the state further delays the release of the videos until at least a hearing on Monday, just a day before Schimel faces a close election contest against Democrat Susan Happ in the race for attorney general.

Rambo sentenced to life for murder of estranged wife

A Park Falls man convicted of killing his estranged wife will likely spend likely the rest of his life in prison. William Rambo faced sentencing in the case on Thursday. He entered an Alford plea to murder charges in August, admitting there was enough evidence to convict him without admitting guilt. Police say, Rambo, 47, fatally stabbed 37-year-old Dawn Rambo in August of last year.

Rambo told Judge Ann Knox-Bauer that “I did what I did” and that he was “worse than Jodi Arias,” refering to the Arizona woman convicted of stabbing her ex-boyfriend to death. Rambo, who will be eligible for parole in 25 years, will be transferred to Dodge Correctional Institute in Waupun for his initial prison stay and evaluation.


Dane County judge orders release of training videos

A Dane County judge says the state Department of Justice must release two training videos that feature the Republican candidate for attorney general, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, even though the agency argues that making them public could put public safety at risk and violate the privacy of crime victims.

The two videos are of training sessions Schimel performed for fellow prosecutors. The state Democratic Party sought their release, along with video of three other sessions, based on claims that they may include objectionable statements made by Schimel. The DOJ says videos of the other sessions does not exist or could not be located.

After reviewing the two tapes, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess said he found nothing offensive on them and ordered them to be released by Friday afternoon, unless the state appeals. If the DOJ does challenge the decision, another hearing is expected on Monday…the day before Schimel faces Democratic candidate for attorney general Susan Happ in a hotly contested election race for attorney general.

Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department adds drone

A new state law puts limits on how law enforcement can use unmanned sky cameras to watch over the rest of us. But Chippewa County sheriff’s officials say there are still a lot of useful-and-legal applications for the new drone unveiled yesterday.

The department paid $1700 for a new Phantom-2-Vision camera, but it won’t go up in the air for at least another month while a policy for its usage is set-and-approved. Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said the drone could be used in a number of ways to protect officers and others. They include photographing searches approved by judges, re-constructing traffic accidents, or finding lost kids. He said the drone is easy to use, and it only takes about 20 minutes to train an operator.

In April, Governor Scott Walker signed a law which prohibits Wisconsin law enforcement from using drones to obtain evidence without warrants. Kowalczyk promised his department would use its new drone selectively with search laws in mind.


Kristen Smith sentenced to 25 years

A woman convicted of kidnapping her infant nephew and leaving him outside in a plastic storage bin in frigid temperatures has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson imposed the sentence Monday on 31-year-old Kristen Smith of Aurora, Colorado. Smith was found guilty on July 31, after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Madison.

Smith was accused of taking then five-day old Kayden Powell in the middle of the night last February, then leaving the infant in a storage bin behind a gas station in Iowa before she was taken into police custody. The police chief in West Branch, Iowa found Kayden more than a day later unharmed, despite the sub-zero temperatures outside.

At the trial, the evidence showed that Smith faked a pregnancy and kidnapped the infant with the intent to take him back to Colorado and claim him as her child. The jury reached their verdict after less than three hours of deliberation.

In sentencing Smith, Judge Peterson called her a liar and said, “You would have let the baby die rather than admit you had taken him.”

United States Attorney Vaudreuil said, “Kristen Smith left a baby outside in bitterly cold temperatures and for over 24 hours denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. Her callous disregard for this child’s life merits this long prison sentence.”