RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander man busted for selling bath salts won't do jail time.
John Hildebrand was busted last year for selling the drug out of his adult gift store. But all he'll have to do is pay court costs and stay out of trouble for a few years.
The outcome might surprise you given the severity of the original charges. But his case is the prefect example of why it's so hard for law enforcement to deal with synthetic drug cases right now.
Bath salts are gaining traction in the Northwoods. We've all heard the horror stories coming from around the U.S., and hear about it more and more here.
John Hildebrand was charged with nine felonies, all having to do with selling MDPV, known as the bath salts drug. Police found out he was selling it right out of his adult gift shop in Rhinelander. The charges were so serious he faced a maximum of 113 years in prison.
The federal government had to issue an emergency blanket ban on bath salts while legislators worked on permanent laws to make them illegal. But here's where the problems start: the statutes that make the drug illegal list specific ingredients. These newer designer drugs aren't like marijuana or cocaine; their chemical makeup can be easily altered just slightly, making them technically legal. That's why Hildebrand's original case was thrown out.
"We have to wait for a certain amount of time and once those results come back because of the results it wasn't actually a controlled substance under the act and so he couldn't formally charge under that. So he dismissed that case and re-filed it under the abuse of a hazardous substance statute," says Oneida County District Attorney Mike Schiek.
Oneida County got creative. The abuse of a hazardous substance statute was created to battle huffing, but had enough room for interpretation it could be applied to other drugs without their own statute.
"We don't want as a community to let these new drugs come in and say, 'Listen we don't know what we can do. We can't prosecute this because it's not in the books so there's nothing we can do about it'. We would rather take a much more proactive approach and charge them under these other statutes that we think certainly apply," says Schiek.
Other counties throughout the state are facing the same struggle. Drug enforcement officers who worked on this case told us other counties were anxious to see if Oneida Count could pull off successfully prosecuting someone for bath salts under that statute. It would be the first time.
"That was the first bath salts case, I believe, this county saw. And when it came through the media was very excited about it, I wasn't the original prosecutor but even in my role as a defense attorney I remember that case coming out and the defense bar talking about how that was going to affect things," says Schiek.
Last month Hildebrand was convicted of one of the felony distribution of a hazardous substance charges, as part of a plea deal. Hildebrand had to pay court costs, and has to stay out of trouble or he'll be hauled to jail. So why not go all the way to trial for both charges? One reason is since the statute wasn't designed for that specific drug it would have dragged the case out much longer than the two years it had already been going on. Schiek considered other factors too.
"Discrete Pleasures was closed down. It's my understanding he owned a construction business; he lost that as well. He had a home in the area that he lost. The message is that it took its toll on his life; he got messed up with this stuff and it literally ruined his life. The charges were certainly warranted but he lost everything," says Schiek.
Another big reason is there was a lot riding on them getting a guilty conviction. It sets a precedent for the whole state to start pushing these cases, rather than throw in the towel.
"We have to try to protect the community. And if these drugs are coming in and we're just throwing up our hands and saying, 'There's nothing we can do about it, we just have to let it happen'. I don't think that's the right way to handle the problem. I would rather take a different approach and let people know that if these drugs do come into the community we've got a statute we can prosecute under and we're willing to go for it," says Schiek.
PARK FALLS - Many families began their Thanksgiving Day with a run this morning. Topping off the holiday with a "trot" around town may not appeal to everyone, but for these families it was a way to spend time with one another.
"Trot now so we can pie later," said Steph Schultz, a runner in the Park Falls Turkey Trot.
Families used the Turkey Trot 5K in Park Falls as a way to bond.
MERRILL - Most people enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner with family. But the Merrill firefighters spend their Thanksgiving at the station with their second family, their coworkers. Community members stepped in to make sure the firefighters still had a special Thanksgiving while they were working.
It might be Thanksgiving, but for the Merrill Fire Department, it's just another day
But it is a day with more turkey, stuffing, and pies.
"We had a couple of community organizations that dropped off meals for us which we're definitely grateful for," said firefighter and paramedic Bryson Cruise.
The job doesn't stop for firefighters and Thanksgiving is no exception.
So Park City Credit Union and Hands of Hope wanted to thank the firefighters for their service with a home cooked Thanksgiving meal.
RHINELANDER - Nineteen months ago, 10 police agencies surrounded the Tripoli home of Kenneth Welsh.
Police say Welsh caused a three-hour standoff, threatened to blow up his house, and threatened to kill his wife.
Later in court, he was convicted of two felonies and sentenced to three years in prison by Oneida County Judge Michael Bloom.
But now, those convictions and prison sentence have been erased. This month, while in prison, Welsh argued he didn't fully understand all the elements of one of the crimes to which he pleaded no contest, first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Welsh's motion put some of the blame on his defense attorney, Rod Streicher.
RHINELANDER - You might be planning on waiting in line on Black Friday or sitting behind a computer on Cyber Monday. But in Rhinelander and other Northwoods cities, Small Business Saturday is another day to mark on the calendar.
Dawn Allen sold her goods at craft shows for years, but had always wanted to try something different.
"It was my dream to open up a shop one day," said Allen, the owner of Briar House on Keenen Street. So she opened Briar House in Rhinelander 21 years ago.
Allen sells women's clothes, shoes, accessories and has a full espresso bar.
But one of her favorite parts of the job is the community support.
"It's like a family here, it's more of a destination coming here I believe," said Allen.
Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. Rockfleet Broadcasting / Northland Television, Inc. and By Request Web Designs shall not be held responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, or misprints.