August 1, 2014

Suspect in Janesville hit and run crash pleads guilty

Sambath Pal

Sambath Pal

An October 1st sentencing date is set for a 24-year-old Park City, Ilinois man accused in the deaths of two Janesville motorcyclists.  Sambath Pal pleaded guilty Thursday in Rock County Court to two counts of hit-and-run involving death, for the April crash on Highway 14 near Harmony Town Hall Road.

 24-year-old Mitchell Vance and 18-year-old Devin Julius were riding with a group of motorcyclists when an SUV crossed the center line, hitting them both.  The criminal complaint says Pal left the scene without stopping. He was eventually arrested after a 911 call to police told investigators where to find him. Police say auto parts found at the scene matched damage to the SUV like puzzle pieces.

Originally,  the judge had entered not guilty pleas when Pal stood mute in court back in May.  Prosecutors say they offered no deal for the change in pleas. Pal could get 50 years in prison.


Judge finds suspect in ‘Slender Man’ stabbing not competent to stand trial

A Waukesha judge ruled today that a 12-year-old girl is not mentally competent to stand trial for stabbing a classmate, in an attempt to please the fictional “Slender Man” horror character.

Circuit Judge Michael Bohren ordered up to a year of mental health treatment for the girl. The case against her will resume once it’s determined that she has gained the mental ability to help with her defense.

A defense expert testified Friday that the girl is more worried about angering Slender Man than she is about going to prison, claiming that she can communicate with him telepathically and feared he would hurt her family. The girl also claimed to be able to see and communicate with other fictional characters, including unicorns and a character from the Harry Potter novel series.

The girl is one of two 12-year-olds charged as adults with attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing a 12-year-old classmate 19 times during a sleepover in May. The victim survived the attack and continues to recover at home. WRN is not naming the girls because their attorneys have indicated they plan to ask for the cases to be heard in juvenile court.

Van Hollen wants voter ID law in place by November

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he will fight to remove the final roadblocks keeping Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement from being enforced, with the goal of having it back in place before the general election in November.

While the state Supreme Court says Wisconsin’s requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID at the polls is constitutional, the law remains on hold because of an ongoing federal challenge. Van Hollen says he will continue pushing for a stay of that decision and “it’s time for the will of the people to be implemented, and to not have to go through another significant election without voter ID in place.”

The Department of Justice has filed an appeal of U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman’s April ruling in federal court that also found the law is unconstitutional, but it has not been taken up yet.

Lawmakers could also come back to the Capitol to vote on changes to the law that address the issues brought up by the federal court. Van Hollen says that’s possible, but his conversations with lawmakers so far have indicated a willingness to wait for the issue to get worked out in the courts. “I think the decision has been made that we want to make sure the legitimacy of our legislative decisions is upheld by the court.”

Wisconsin’s voter ID law was in effect for a single primary election in early 2012, before multiple injunctions were issued blocking its further use.

VA deal headed to Obama

header-logo (1)Congress has passed a bill to help veterans avoid long waits for health care and fix other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate easily approved the $16.3 billion compromise measure Thursday night on a 91-3 vote, a day after it was overwhelmingly passed by the House. It now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The compromise is a response to reports that veterans were waiting months or years for care, with VA employees covering up the delays. “The wait times that veterans have experience are really unacceptable and outrageous,” said Wisconsin Democrat, Senator Tammy Baldwin, who voted for the measure, as did the state’s GOP Senator Ron Johnson. “This bill uses a number of strategies to reduce those wait times and make sure our veterans get the care they are promised.”

Baldwin was pleased with a provision that adds 1500 graduate medical education residents to the VA Health Service. “This is welcome news not only to our VA health system, but it’s also welcome news to our medical schools, that have been urging Congress to act on increasing the number of training slots,” she said. The deal includes $10 billion in emergency funding, allowing veterans to go to private doctors if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or are told they must wait more than 14 days for an appointment.

Colorado woman convicted of kidnapping newborn Beloit boy

Kayden Powell and his parents were in federal court Thursday for the verdict in Kristen Smith's trial.

Kayden Powell and his parents were in federal court Thursday for the verdict in Kristen Smith’s trial.

A jury in federal court has found a Colorado woman guilty of kidnapping her newborn nephew from a home in Beloit earlier this year.

It only took the jury in Madison about three hours on Thursday to return a guilty verdict against 31-year-old Kristen Smith. The Aurora, Colorado woman 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 child was found more than a day later unharmed, despite the sub-zero temperatures outside

Smith took the stand in her own defense during the trial, claiming that Kayden’s father had given her permission to take the boy to Colorado and that the parents planned to join her there at a later date. Bruce Powell, the father, denied that had ever happened.

U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil says he believes justice was done and that the jury returned a “fair and just verdict” in the case.

Kayden was in court with his parents Thursday when the verdict was read. His mother, Brianna Marshall, says “it was like torture all over again” to be in court this week and hear the evidence presented. Still, she expressed relief to have the trial completed. Six months later, she says Kayden is strong, healthy, and almost crawling.

Smith faces 25 years to life in prison when she’s sentenced in October. Her attorney says they do plan to ask for a new trial and will appeal the jury’s decision.