Friday, April 19, 2024
Friday, April 19, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Eric Toney, AG Candidate: Feds Must ‘Gain Control of the Border Crisis’


“We will continue to partner with law enforcement to aggressively prosecute those that poison our community by dealing drugs and also seeking treatment options for those battling addiction,” -Eric Toney

In a press release announcing that a local methamphetamine dealer was sentenced to prison, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney called on the federal government to “gain control of the border crisis,” saying that “this border crisis is contributing to deaths within our community and has literally spilled into our streets.”

David S. Bresser was sentenced in a methamphetamine drug overdose homicide and fentanyl delivery in Fond du Lac County. Toney used the case as a moment to highlight the source of many lethal drugs in Wisconsin, saying,”fentanyl and methamphetamine pour across the Southern border.”

Eric Toney is running for Wisconsin Attorney General as a Republican (Professor Ryan Owens is the other Republican primary candidate). Eric Toney is highlighting his experience as a front-line prosecutor.

We previously published a lengthy investigative report on AG Josh Kaul’s crime lab delays and backlogs; one of those areas involves delayed testing for controlled substances. Kaul’s delays are worse than those under his predecessor, former Republican AG Brad Schimel. This is despite the fact that Kaul’s Wisconsin crime lab is handling FAR fewer cases.

“Eric has successfully prosecuted crimes as varied as homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, drug trafficking, financial crimes, and racketeering,” Eric Toney’s campaign website says.

Eric Toney announced that Bresser was sentenced to 8 years of initial prison confinement and 4 years of extended supervision for his role in delivering methamphetamine resulting in a victim’s death in the City of Fond du Lac. The victim was identified in Fond du Lac media as Robert Thorp. He was convicted of drug dealing and first-degree reckless homicide.

Bresser was also sentenced to a concurrent 3 years of initial prison confinement and 3 years of extended supervision for an unrelated drug delivery of fentanyl that occurred on August 6, 2020 in the City of Ripon.

“Overdose deaths are a heartbreaking loss of life and we experienced too many of those heartbreaks in 2020. My heart goes out to the families that have suffered one of these tragic losses as well as to those with a family member battling addiction,” Toney said. Fond du Lac county recorded 30 overdose deaths, last year, a record. Almost all involved fentanyl.

“We will continue to partner with law enforcement to aggressively prosecute those that poison our community by dealing drugs and also seeking treatment options for those battling addiction,” said Eric Toney, a Republican who has been Fond du Lac County DA for more than 9 years. “Our Federal government must direct more resources to the southern border and gain control of the border crisis. This border crisis is contributing to
deaths within our community and has literally spilled into our streets.”

The Bresser cases were investigated by the Fond du Lac Police Department and Ripon Police Department and were prosecuted by District Attorney Eric Toney with assistance from DDA Douglas Edelstein, and Joan Korb.

Eric Toney Says Drug Cartels Are Pouring Fentanyl & Methamphetamine Into the State

In the press release, Toney wrote, “Drug cartels are pouring fentanyl and methamphetamine into our country and into Wisconsin at a record pace. Customs and Border Protection seized more fentanyl by April of 2021 then had been seized in all of 2020.”

According to the Bresser complaint in the death, on April 4, 2020, an officer was dispatched to a bridge located near the dead-end portion of South St. in the City and County of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for a report of a possible deceased body in the water.

Testing showed the victim was “positive for THC, methamphetamine, and amphetamine with final toxicology results pending,” the complaint said. A witness said he saw the victim on his residential property in the City of Fond du Lac and the victim had belongings in the garage.

Another witness said the victim  “had been using heroin on and off and needed help. Witness 2 described an event approximately 1 year prior in which Victim 1 had been doing well and then Witness 2 observed Victim 1 overdosed on the kitchen floor from heroin.”

Authorities found a syringe with liquid residue in the victim’s belongings. “Members of Victim 1’s family indicated over the “last couple years’ that Victim 1 ‘wants to kill himself,'” the complaint said.

Detectives found Facebook messaging between Bresser and the victim regarding the victim purchasing a “tweek,” which is a slang term for meth.

“In the messages, Bresser is observed to have sent Victim 1 a crystal-like substance image in a plastic baggie. Bresser was not interviewed as he was unable to be located,” the complaint said. Contact was then made with him but he failed to show up, the complaint says, adding that the cause of death was eventually listed as an accident and ‘methamphetamine toxicity.’”

“Detectives obtained David Bresser’s Facebook Messenger messages and Detective Bobo was able to review those messages on August 11, 2020. Detective Bobo observed David Bresser having numerous conversations with people about dealing and using drugs,” the complaint said. “Bobo also located a conversation between Victim 1 and Bresser on April 3, 2020. During these messages, Bresser and Victim 1 arrange a drug transaction for ‘Tweek’ in which Victim 1 will pay $80 to Bresser for Tweek and $10 for gas as Victim 1 is in Fond du Lac and Bresser appears to be in Ripon, WI. Bresser tells Victim 1 he arrived in Fond du Lac and Victim 1 indicates that he’s walking to the Kwik Trip on 11th and Main St. Bresser then agrees to meet Victim 1 at that Kwik Trip location, which is located in the City and County of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.”

Authorities then arrested Bresser. They “explained having 3,000 pages of Bresser’s Facebook records and know he has been dealing to numerous individuals, including Victim 1. During the interview, Bresser stated that he hadn’t heard from Victim 1 in years. Bresser then stated he didn’t even give Victim 1 enough to be able to overdose. Bresser stated he gave Victim 1 ‘like $20 worth,'” the complaint says.

“Detective Bobo explained to Bresser that based on the toxicology results there’s no way it was only $20 worth of drugs. Bobo explains to Bresser that one never knows how strong or weak the meth is because we don’t know how many times it has been cut or added to in order to strengthen or weaken the drug. Bresser said the deal for the $80 changed because he didn’t have enough.”

He had a previous conviction for burglary.

According to a second criminal complaint in the case, on August 6, 2020, at approximately 10:39 pm, City of Ripon Police Sergeant Travis Borkenhagen, Investigator Jesse Tipton, and Officer Bradley Kurczek were dispatched to an apartment at 432 Eureka Street, in the City of Ripon, Fond du Lac County, to investigate a medical complaint.

Upon arrival, Officer Kurczek tended to Amber Williams who pale and sweaty. “Also present was Bresser. Officer Kurczek was gathering medical information from Williams when he noticed Investigator Tipton standing in the Southwest corner of the apartment. Investigator Tipton was motioning to Officer Kurczek to look at his feet. Officer Kurczek noted at Investigator Tipton’s feet were a folded up blanket, two pieces of tin foil, one of which was slightly unwrapped. Next to the tin foil was a bill of US Currency that had been rolled up and a piece of cotton,” the complaint says.

“Investigator Tipton and Officer Kurczek know, from training and experience, that tin foil is often used to hold and cook narcotics and cotton balls can be used as a filtering agent when injecting narcotics. Both officers also recognize that a rolled up bill can be used to snort drugs.”

Investigator Tipton went to speak with the defendant in the hallway. “Officer Kurczek continued to speak to Williams who eventually admitted to shooting what she thought was heroin just prior to the officers arriving. She stated the defendant brought the suspected heroin over to share. Williams stated she passed on in the Southwest corner, using the blanket as a pillow. Williams also stated that while she used a needle to inject drugs,” the complaint says.

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(The Center Square) – One of the biggest critics of Wisconsin’s election administrator says no one should be threatening her and says threats don’t help fix election integrity issues.

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, on Tuesday offered her thoughts after the Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed elections administrator Meagan Wolfe is receiving extra security protection.

"Threatening Administrator Meagan Wolfe, or any election official, is unacceptable and counterproductive. Venting frustrations on individuals like Wolfe, clerks, or poll workers is not only illegal but also harmful to rebuilding trust in our elections,” Brandtjen said. “Threats only undermine our republic and empower the courts and media. It's essential to address any concerns about election processes through legal channels. Threats have no place in our democracy.”

Brandtjen has been one of Wisconsin’s loudest critics of Wolfe. She led hearings as far back as 2021 into Wolfe’s role in the 2020 election. Brandtjen also led the push to get Wolfe removed from the Elections Commission.

“Wolfe’s term has indeed expired, and according to Wisconsin Statutes 15.61(1)(b)1, she should be removed, but Republicans are too worried about the press or too compromised to follow existing law.” Brandtjen said.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday clarified that Wolfe is receiving extra security but refused to offer any details.

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission has had productive conversations about safety and security with state leadership, including the governor’s office, which is tasked with approving security measures for state government officials,” WEC spokesperson Riley Vetterkind said in a statement. “Those conversations have resulted in additional security measures being approved for Administrator Wolfe and the WEC when the need arises.”

Brandtjen on Tuesday blamed Wisconsin Republicans, and once again blamed Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, for Wolfe’s continued time on the Elections Commission.

“It's disappointing that Sen. Dan Knodl and Rep. Scott Krug, chairs of the election committees, have not exercised their investigative and subpoena powers. This inaction has allowed the neglect of essential laws, such as providing ballots to individuals declared incompetent, lack of checks in military ballot requests, an insecure online system, and improper guidance on voting for homeless individuals without proper documentation,” she said. “The Legislature, particularly Speaker Vos' control, is responsible for the frustration caused by election irregularities due to their inaction.”

Wisconsin’s local election managers have reported an uptick in threats and angry rhetoric since the 2020 election, and some local election offices have taken extra precautions. But there haven’t been any cases in Wisconsin where someone has acted on an election threat.

Wisconsin’s Largest Business Group Sues Over Evers’ 400-year School Funding Veto

(The Center Square) – There is now a legal challenge to Gov. Tony Evers’ 400-year school funding veto.

The WMC Litigation Center on Monday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up their challenge to the governor’s summer veto that increased per-pupil funding for the next four centuries.

“At issue is Gov. Evers’ use of the so-called ‘Vanna White’ or ‘pick-a-letter’ veto,” the group said in a statement. “The governor creatively eliminated specific numbers in a portion of the budget bill that was meant to increase the property tax levy limit for school districts in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years. By striking individual digits, the levy limit would instead be increased from the years 2023 to 2425 – or four centuries into the future.”

The WMC Litigation Center is an affiliate of Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce (WMC), the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association.

Litigation Center Executive Director Scott Rosenow said while Wisconsin’s governor has an incredibly powerful veto pen, there are limits.

“No Wisconsin governor has the authority to strike individual letters or digits to form a new word or number, except when reducing appropriations,” Rosenow said. “This action is not only unconstitutional on its face, but it is undemocratic because this specific partial veto allows school districts to raise property taxes for the next 400 years without voter approval.”

Wisconsin lawmakers and voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1990 that put limits on the governor’s veto power.

Rosenow and the WMC Litigation Center say the governor’s veto goes beyond those limits.

The legal challenge also raises the constitutional issue that all state spending has to originate with, and be approved by, the legislature.

“In no uncertain terms, 402 years is not less than or part of the two-year duration approved by the Legislature – it is far more,” concluded Rosenow. “The governor overstepped his authority with this partial veto, at the expense of taxpayers, and we believe oversight by the Court is necessary.”

The WMC Litigation Center is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case as quickly as possible.

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Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a lawyer and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

Trump has attempted to delay the start of the New York state trial several times, including three longshot tactics judges rejected this week.

What charges does Trump face in the New York hush money case?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels are expected to testify.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness in the trial. Daniels has said she expects to testify.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Bragg's predecessor, did not bring the case to trial.

What happens on Monday?

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Donald Trump are expected to be present when the trial before Judge Juan Merchan gets started Monday. The first step will be picking a jury, a process that could take a week or more depending on how things progress. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will select 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of potentially hundreds of people. Each juror will answer 42 questions designed to determine if they can be impartial in the high-profile trial of a polarizing former president. The jurors will remain anonymous because of security concerns.

Once a jury is seated, it's on to opening statements where prosecutors and defense attorneys will get to address the jury about what they plan to show during the trial.

What is Trump's defense to the charges?

Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and has accused Bragg of bringing a politically motivated case involving conduct in 2016 during a presidential election year as Trump faces incumbent Joe Biden in a rematch of the 2020 election.

Trump has spoken out against the judge, the district attorney and other involved in the case repeatedly. Trump's comments prompted a gag order from the judge who said Trump can't talk publicly about certain people involved in the case and their families.

"The White House Thugs should not be allowed to have these dangerous and unfair Biden Trials during my campaign for President. All of them, civil and criminal, could have been brought more than three years ago. It is an illegal attack on a Political Opponent. It is Communism at its worst, and Election Interference at its Best. No such thing has ever happened in our Country before," Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social this week. "On Monday I will be forced to sit, GAGGED, before a HIGHLY CONFLICTED & CORRUPT JUDGE, whose hatred for me has no bounds. All of these New York and D.C. 'Judges' and Prosecutors have the same MINDSET. Nobody but this Soros Prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, wanted to take this ridiculous case. All legal scholars say it is a sham. BIDEN'S DOJ IS RUNNING THE CASE. Just think of it, these animals want to put the former President of the United States (who got more votes than any sitting President!), & the PARTY'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, IN JAIL, for doing absolutely nothing wrong. It is a RUSH TO THE FINISH. SO UNFAIR!"

Will Trump take the stand?

That's not clear yet. Trump said last month that he'd be willing to testify at trial if needed.

Could Trump go to jail?

It's too earlier to tell what will happen if Trump is convicted. Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump's age and lack of any prior criminal convictions could work in his favor at sentencing if he's convicted. His attacks on the judge could have the opposite effect at sentencing. Before sentencing, the judge would look at sentencing guidelines, recommendations from prosecutors and any other pre-sentence reports.

In late March, Trump said that he wasn't worried about a conviction when asked if he thought a conviction could hurt his chances of returning to the White House.

"It could also make me more popular because the people know it's a scam," he said. "It's a Biden trial, there is no trial, there's a Biden trial."

Whatever happens during the trial, Trump will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service.

Even if convicted and sentenced to jail, Trump could continue his campaign to re-take the White House.

"The Constitution does not bar felons from serving as President," said Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Trump could not pardon himself from any state charges, Hasen said.

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s next supreme court race could be even more contentious and even more expensive than the last one.

Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday surprised the state when she announced she will not run for re-election next year.

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run. But it's just time to pass the torch, bring fresh perspectives to the court," Walsh Bradley said in a statement.

She is one of Wisconsin’s longest serving justices, serving her third 10-year term on the court.

“In the 177-year history of the court, only four justices have served longer than my length of service,” she wrote.

Walsh Bradley’s decision means the next election will be open.

Former Republican attorney general, and current Waukesha County judge, Brad Schimel has already jumped into the race. There aren’t any declared Democrats yet.

Schimel on Thursday said Walsh Bradley’s decision isn’t changing anything for him.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against this Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s last race for the supreme court, in April of 2023, set records for spending. The race between Justice Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly cost more than $56 million. That makes the 2023 Wisconsin race the most expensive judicial race in American history. Many court observers and politicos in Wisconsin say the 2025 race could be just as expensive, or even more expensive.

Protasiewicz’s victory flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

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