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.
STEVENS POINT - Stevens Point Police are investigating an armed robbery.
Around 6 a.m. Sunday morning, police and Portage County Sheriff Deputies responded to a report of an armed robbery at the R Store in the 5400 block of HWY 10 E in Stevens Point. Police say during the initial investigation, they determined an armed suspect displayed a weapon and took money from the store.
LAKE TOMAHAWK - A 32-year-old woman had to be airlifted to a hospital after a snowmobile crash.
Oneida County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Tyler Young said emergency crews responded to the accident around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning. It happened in an area off Highway 47 near Fawn Lake Rd in McNaughton.
EAGLE RIVER - A Snow Show in Eagle River reminded visitors of all that snowmobiling clubs do for Wisconsin. About 300 people stopped by the Eagle River Derby Track Sunday for the event. The Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs invited 15 vendors to help educate people about the economics and basics of snowmobiling.
"We just want everybody to be aware of all the work that goes into maintaining and upkeep of the snowmobile trails," said Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs President Dave Newman. It was the 5th annual Snow Show.
MINOCQUA - A major 'safety net' resource used by nearly 800,000 people in Wisconsin could get cut in half. The Trump Administration wants to radically change SNAP. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formally known as food stamps. " It's a fundamental lifeline," said St. Germain Sentury Foods owner David Weber. Last Monday Weber found out a lifeline for some of his customers was at risk.
" In its current form it's a very vital necessity for the families," said Weber. Weber's store has supported the current debit card style SNAP or food stamp program since it started in the 60s. However, the Trump administration wants to radically change SNAP to a food box delivery styled program in its 2019 budget. " The boxes people would receive, would contain mostly shelve stable food it doesn't [provide] fresh vegetables," said Weber. With the change low- income Americans receiving at least $90 a month would get half their benefits in the form of a "USDA Foods package."
" There may be a need for change for the SNAP program, but I'm not sure the proposed changes are the way to go," said Weber. The box would include shelf stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, and beans, but no fruits or vegetables. " [It's a] disservice to the community and the people who receive that benefit," said Weber. Weber said right now the current SNAP program allows people to get the food their families need when they need it. Instead of the nearly 800,000 SNAP users in Wisconsin needing to wait for a pre-arranged box delivery. " If there is going to be changes they need to be realistic changes that won't hurt people," said Weber.
PELICAN LAKE - Tribal members from across Wisconsin held a Deep Winter Camp to pass on parts of their cultures. Members from several different tribes wanted to give kids the chance to experience a piece of their culture. They hope the camp encourages younger members to keep traditions going and never forget where they came from. "They're going to be the next teachers they're good kids and we all love every kid that came here and spent time with us. They all learned something and they'll take it back and teach others," said Lac du Flambeau Band Vice Chairman John Johnson Sr.
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