July 31, 2014

Girl in Slenderman case not mentally competent to stand trial

One girl charged with stabbing her young friend multiple times is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Two doctors have found that the 12-year-old is not competent enough to proceed in the so-called Slenderman murder case. An evaluation from a Madison psychiatrist at the request of the girl’s attorney shows the same conclusion as one ordered by the court.

At a court proceeding today, Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren scheduled a hearing for August first, where both the prosecution and defense can address the competency question before a final ruling is issued.

The girl and her friend, also 12, are both charged with attempted homicide, after they allegedly stabbed a 12-year-old female classmate 19 times on May 30th while claiming allegiance to the fictional online horror character Slenderman.

The family of the unnamed victim issued a statement that supports the prosecution, but vows to keep focusing on the girl’s treatment and recovery.

Attorney says no conclusion Walker committed a crime

Gov. Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Gov. Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

A special prosecutor in a John Doe investigation says no conclusions have been made that Governor Scott Walker broke campaign laws.

The statement comes a week after documents were released as part of a federal lawsuit against the long-running probe, which has been looking at possible illegal coordination between Republican recall candidates and conservative groups. They include a filing from last December by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, which indicated Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” to raise funds and coordinate activities with issue advocacy groups.

Attorney Randall Crocker, who is representing Schmitz, says in a statement released Thursday that the filing only outlines a legal theory and does not establish the existence of a crime. Crocker says it was meant to be an argument supporting further investigation and that no conclusions have been made about whether there is sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime. Crocker stresses “It is wrong for any person to point to this sentence in a legal argument as a finding by the Special Prosecutor that Governor Walker has engaged in a criminal scheme. lt is not such a finding.”

The filing released last week prompted a firestorm of criticism and partisan attacks against Walker and it was mentioned in a TV ad released Thursday by Democrat Mary Burke’s campaign for governor. Governor Walker has accused media outlets of reporting the court filing as a proven fact, a point emphasized again in a statement released by his campaign. Spokesman Tom Evenson says “today’s statement by prosecutors should serve as an opportunity for the media to correct the record and report the real facts of this story.”

Walker talks John Doe on FOX

Walker talks to reporters (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Walker talks to reporters (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The governor continues to defend himself, and this morning (Friday) he does it on the national stage.

Governor Scott Walker appears on ‘Fox and Friends’ to discuss the release of hundreds of documents in the John Doe investigation, in which prosecutors claim Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” connected with his 2012 recall election and those of GOP state senators. Walker says the probe is over, and he reiterates, “It’s not new news … just newly-released documents,” and he blames the liberals for trying to “stir things up.”

Walker says, “If you’re just reading this for the first time, you might think there’s something there without knowing that the courts already looked at this — a state judge took care of this some time ago and a federal judge more recently heard the same information. In both cases they said there’s just not an argument there. So, what you see is the left and others out there trying to stir things up.”

State reserve judge Gregory Peterson squashed subpoenas late last year against potential targets, saying he found no probable cause of wrongdoing. Last month, Federal Judge Rudolph Randa at least temporarily halted the probe. No charges have been filed.

On the conservative cable TV program, Walker says this is a prime example of what happens when you take on the “big government special interests,” referring to his Act 10 law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining by most public unions. He also blames the media for being “willing accomplices.”

He says, “So many in the national media and even some here in Wisconsin are looking at this state backward. This is a case that’s been resolved, that not one but two judges have said it’s over,” he says, “there’s no arguement there.”

AUDIO: Walker blames special interests and the media. (:20)

According to court records released Thursday, prosecutors say Walker and two Republican operatives broke election laws by coordinating campaigns and fundraising, using candidates and a dozen outside conservative groups.

The governor tells the talk show host, “Don’t just take my word for it,” saying, “the facts are pretty clear.”

Walker is asking for help from his supporters to counter what he calls yet another attack on him as he runs for reelection in the fall. “Because we’re gonna have to counter this sort of attack all over again.”

The governor is also taking to social media, tweeting to his followers that the prosecutors’ arguments are “categorically false.”

Walker has a national profile as a possible White House candidate in 2016.

Even if the investigation is permanently stopped, Jay Heck of the government watchdog group Common Cause Wisconsin says the governor has some explaining to do.

Prosecutor argued Walker part of ‘criminal scheme’

walkerreporters

Gov. Scott Walker

A special prosecutor running a John Doe investigation surrounding Wisconsin’s recall elections argued Governor Scott Walker was taking part in a “criminal scheme” designed to get around Wisconsin election laws.

The documents were released Thursday as part of an ongoing federal lawsuit against the probe, which is investigating whether third party groups and Republican candidates illegally coordinated their efforts during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Several of the conservative groups targeted by the investigation filed a lawsuit that contends prosecutors were violating their First Amendment rights. A federal judge halted the probe earlier this year and prosecutors are currently appealing that decision.

Documents tied to the case were unsealed by a federal appeals court. They include a filing written by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, which details an email sent by Walker to Republican strategist Karl Rove. In it, Walker writes about the importance of R.J. Johnson in running efforts to coordinate groups. “Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state.”

Prosecutors claimed that the Wisconsin Club for Growth acted as a hub between the campaign and third party groups. They allege that, as early as March of 2011, there were “open and express discussions of the need to coordinate the activities of entities,” such as Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Friends of Scott Walker, and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

No charges have been filed as a result of the John Doe investigation, which remains on hold because of an ongoing federal challenge. A federal judge earlier this year ruled that the coordination identified by prosecutors did not break the law, in an opinion similar to one issued by a state judge previously. Prosecutors have appealed those decisions.

Walker’s campaign released a statement late Thursday afternoon, which says “The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat District Attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false.  In fact two judges, in both state and federal courts, have ruled that no laws were broken. This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law.  It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judge’s orders to end this investigation.”

FDA backs off on cheese boards

PHOTO: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

PHOTO: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

Wisconsin cheese makers appear to have backed down some regulators in Washington. It’s been an interesting week for John Umhoefer, Executive Director with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “At the beginning of the week we were pretty sure FDA wanted to stop the use of wood for curing cheese, and now . . . we find that they have reversed themselves, and clarified that was never their intent,” Umhoefer said Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration had issued a statement that the use of wooden aging boards is unsanitary, a stance which Umhoefer said strikes at the heart of the artisan cheese industry. “For many types of cheese, especially when you want to have a nice rinded cheese, wood is the best surface to rest that cheese on for the many months or years that you have the cheese in play. It wicks away moisture from the cheese and delivers it back when needed. It really breathes along with the cheese.”

After an outcry from cheese making states like Wisconsin and Vermont, FDA backtracked on its initial statement that the wood boards cannot be adequately sterilized.

“The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) requirement in effect that addresses this issue. Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves.

In the interest of public health, the FDA’s current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be “adequately cleanable” and properly maintained. Historically, the FDA has expressed concern about whether wood meets this requirement and has noted these concerns in inspectional findings. FDA is always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese.

The FDA will engage with the artisanal cheese-making community to determine whether certain types of cheeses can safely be made by aging them on wooden shelving.”

“I am pleased to see the FDA responding quickly to this important matter,” said Ben Brancel, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “DATCP will continue to work with the FDA as it engages the cheese making community on this issue.”

But a spokesman for a Wisconsin member of Congress was more cautious. “The FDA has not given Members of Congress any assurance that the practice of wood-aging will be protected,” said Alex Nguyen, Communications Director for Representative Mark Pocan. The Madison Democrat will offer an amendment to prohibit FDA from moving to prohibit the use of wood aging boards for cheese.

Umhoefer said there is no history of the wood being associated with illness. “There’s been no – zero – outbreaks attributed to wood boards as far as a consumer health issue, ever” he said. “We were quite surprised when this came up as an issue. It seemed to come out of the blue and didn’t have a role in in any food safety issues. And the regulators will confirm that.”