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.
MERRILL - Members of a Northwoods union chapter gathered unique inspiration for a fundraiser - The Beatles.
Merrill-area Local 6 members gathered Wednesday on the Wisconsin flowage to raise money for groups in need of assistance. The union leaders organized boat rides, raffles, barbecues, and contests. The inspiration for the fundraiser came, in part, from the 1965 Beatles single Help!
"I found out it was the anniversary of the 'Help!' release from The Beatles record, and I decided, let's help our community," said Local 6 Vice President Valerie Nelson. "Our membership is very passionate about certain organizations within our community. One being the Lincoln County Humane Society, the local food pantry, and the American Cancer Society."
MADISON - Unemployment is up in all of Wisconsin's largest cities and most counties.
The state Department of Workforce Development reported Wednesday that unemployment rates in June increased in all of the state's 32 largest cities. Unemployment rates went up in 61 of 72 counties and remained unchanged in the other 11.
Wisconsin's monthly unemployment rate in June was 5.7 percent, unchanged from May.
Gardens need some help with large temperature swings in summer
RHINELANDER - Northwoods heat the past few days forced plants to endure different weather, but you don't need to do extra gardening just because it's hot.
Experts at Hanson's Garden Village in Rhinelander say plants can manage the heat just fine. On hot, sunny days, many plants will wilt, but that doesn't mean they need more water.
"If the soil is moist on a hot day, I wouldn't water more. That's probably more harm. The plant can only take up so much moisture at a time, so I would just hold off on watering," says Sue Hanson, Hanson's Garden Village Co-Owner.
MILWAUKEE - Authorities are looking for a fourth suspect in a shooting on an interstate in Milwaukee County.
Sheriff David Clarke says people in a minivan and another vehicle were shooting at each other in a ``running gun battle'' on Interstate 43 Tuesday afternoon. One vehicle struck the other and the minivan spun into the ditch near Fox Point. Three people in the van were arrested. Authorities say a fourth person left the scene.
EAGLE RIVER - A new type of foundation could give you a better way to build a home, and the idea for the improvement starts right here in the Northwoods.
Composite Panel Systems in Eagle River builds composite panels for home foundations. Composite means anything made of two or more materials, which includes fiberglass in this case. The company describes the EPITOME Quality Foundation Wall as a revolutionary composite building solution for residential foundations.
The company makes them off site, and then they put them together on location. Composite Panel Systems' Scott Weber says that means a shorter build time compared to concrete foundations.
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