March 5, 2015

Arrest made in Dane County arson

Russell Spiegle

Russell Spiegle

A Dane County man is under arrest, in connection with an arson fire at a residence that was set to house a sex offender. Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney said Tuesday that 50-year-old Russell A. Speigle of Cottage Grove had become a person of interest early in the investigation of an earlier fire at the same location.

The first fire occurred on December 8th, 2014 causing approximately $90,000 in damages to the unoccupied home at 4721 Gaston Circle. Fire investigators ruled it as arson. Repairs were being completed at the time of a second fire on Sunday, February 22nd. Again, investigators believed the fire had been set intentionally, this time resulting in the total loss of the home.

After the second fire, detectives visited Speigle’s residence to speak with him. Detectives then learned that Speigle had left town shortly after that.

Search warrants were obtained on Monday, February 23rd, and detectives located Speigle that same night at a residence in Muscoda. He was transported the Burn Unit at UW Hospital in Madison, where doctors determined he should be admitted for additional treatment. Speigle was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon and booked into the Dane County Jail on charges of arson.

The Gaston Circle residence was set to house 40-year-old Howard Nyberg, who was to be placed there as part of a supervised release program. Nyberg was convicted in 1994 of second-degree child sexual assault, and later committed as a sexually violent person to a secure treatment center in Mauston.

Wisconsin Attorney General Schimel prepares for battle with EPA

Attorney General Brad Schimel

Attorney General Brad Schimel

Wisconsin is getting ready for what could be a huge legal battle against the federal government.

Attorney General Brad Schimel says the Environmental Protection Agency is getting ready to enforce new rules that would be detrimental to Wisconsin’s economy, hurting workers and employers.  “If the carbon emissions regulations that the EPA announced last June don’t change very dramatically, Wisconsin’s going to have to get involved in defending our ability to have jobs here, because those carbon regulations would choke out jobs in Wisconsin.”

Schimel says Wisconsin consumers would see immediate energy problems, jacking up the price of electricity.  “We get 62% of our electricity from clean coal energy plants, and those regulations would prohibit any of our current plants from continuing to operate. That puts us in a hole that will be very difficult to get out of. We won’t be able to move fast enough to get new energy sources online before the regulations kick in, and we also would see tremendous costs, billions of dollars turned back on consumers.”  He says, “Those are the dual problems we would face. It would cost tons for consumers to have electrical power, and employers would not be able to absorb those costs.”

Schimel has appointed a deputy Attorney General that has extensive experience in energy law. Delanie Breuer was most recently with the Public Service Commission, but also has education and experience at a mechanical engineer along with legal experience.


AG Schimel shifts focus of Wisconsin anti-drug effort

Attorney General Brad Schimel

Attorney General Brad Schimel

Look for a slight change in the focus of Wisconsin’s anti-drug campaign.

Attorney General Brad Schimel says his predecessor, J.B. Van Hollen, did a wonderful job with “The Fly Effect” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of heroin. However, he wants to shift the focus of the effort to emphasize the problems with the pain pills that usually lead to heroin use. Schimel said “the agency has been focusing heavily on heroin. We’re moving the focus now to talk about the prescription opiates, the drugs that people get from doctors and dentists, because those are the place where this all starts. Nobody starts using heroin. They start by getting addicted to these pills.”

The Attorney General said the danger of prescription pills in the home is much larger than people realize, comparing to leaving a loaded weapon unattended in your home. “I would never leave a loaded handgun sitting on the counter at my house, because I’ve got teenaged daughters, and they’ve got friends over all of the time. I would never dream of leaving that out like that because it’s dangerous. Nobody suggests to parents that those prescription narcotics in your medicine cabinet are killing a lot more people than handguns, and yet, nobody’s really thinking about it.”

Schimel hopes to launch the new campaign soon, along with a re-branded website.


Chippewa County investigator cleared in shooting

A Chippewa County sheriff’s investigator acted in self-defense when he shot a suspect to death last November. District Attorney Steve Gibbs said that deputy William Gray was justified in killing 20-year-old Sharrinder Singh Garcha. Garcha stabbed Gray several times in a squad car in the town of Lafayette.

During the struggle, Gray pulled out a handgun and shot the suspect. Gibbs said Garcha lunged at the officer, and struck his face and throat several times with the knife.

Garcha traveled from the United Kingdom to Eau Claire early in 2014. He later told a girl that the U.S. Homeland Security department was ordering him back to the U.K., and he vowed to have officers kill him if it came down to that. Gray is still recovering from the stabbing.


US Supreme Court asked to skip review of Wisconsin Voter ID law

© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, via Wikimedia Commons

US Supreme Court (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The state Department of Justice is asking the US Supreme Court to pass on reviewing legal challenges to Wisconsin’s Voter ID law.

A federal court struck down the law, which requires to show a government-issued photo identification card at the polls, as the result of a legal challenge filed in 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union. An appeals court overturned that decision last fall, and the ACLU asked the high court to take up the case.

In a court filing dated last Friday, the DOJ claims there is no need to revisit the appeals court decision and the law should be allowed to take effect again. Attorneys for the state argue that courts around the country have already upheld voter ID laws, and that there’s no pressing need to take up the issue right now.

Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement for voting has only been used once — for a primary in February of 2012. Court battles have kept it tied up since then. The appeals court briefly set the stage for it to be used during the elections this past November, but the US Supreme Court reinstated a hold on enforcement while it evaluated whether or not to hear an appeal of that decision.