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.
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Sunday morning, Lac du Flambeau welcomed a new event to the community.
The first Carry the Torch 5k and kids run took place at the Lake of the Torches Casino.
With it being the first year, there were only about 40 runners, but the donation goal for local charities was quite large.
"We decided to make this event happen for local charities. We also have a trap shooting event this Wednesday in Land O' Lakes so we're hoping to raise over $20,000 this year," said Lake of the Torch's Leana Schlecht.
With summer winding down, there aren't too many events like this one still bringing out large crowds.
But runners from the area were excited about this new event.
"It's a nice opportunity for you to make a donation and still participate in an activity but it's nice to see something brought back to Lac duFlambeau because you don't get to see a lot of these sort of activities here. To get the community energized, it's really nice," said runner Russell Myers.
Like they mentioned, the trap shooting will take place on Wednesday where they hope to raise the rest of the $20,000 goal.
MILWAUKEE - Researchers have found elevated numbers of tumors in fish in the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers, suggesting that more cleanup efforts are needed to remove contaminants from the three Wisconsin waterways.
The study led by the U.S. Geological Survey found elevated skin and liver tumors in white suckers. It also found that some male white suckers sampled for the study had testicular tumors. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/2bsUOyk ) that finding was a surprise as those tumors had not often been found in other research projects involving polluted rivers targeted for cleanups.
The study, published in the Journal of Fish Diseases, says exact cause of the tumors isn't known. But previous research has suggested that exposure to certain chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can cause liver tumors in fish.
A former nun who knew one of the two nuns slain in Mississippi says she had always been interested in working with the "poorest of the poor."
Darlene Nicgorski said Saturday that she had recruited Sister Margaret Held to come to Holly Springs, Mississippi, to work as a social worker in a program there that ran schools and offered day care to help young mothers finish school.
Nicgorski said Held was "always interested in working with the marginalized, the underserved, the poorest of the poor."
Held and Sister Paula Merrill were found dead Thursday in their Mississippi home. A suspect was arrested late Friday and charged in their killings.
Nicgorski said the sisters' deaths just don't make sense. She said they would have given the suspect anything he needed.
The Kentucky-based order where one of two slain nuns belonged says the order is establishing a memorial fund to continue her work.
Diane Curtis, a spokeswoman for Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, said they have received messages from around the world from people asking how they can support them in this tragedy.
The fund will be established through the order's website at http://bit.ly/2bIAee8 .
She says it will be used to "continue the legacy of Sister Paula, to minister to the poor."
The order is also asking for prayers for all involved in the tragedy.
She says Merrill went to Kentucky from Aug. 17 until Monday to meet with others from Sisters of Charity.
Curtis called it a "beautiful visit."
The clinic where two slain nuns worked says the man accused of killing them was not a patient there.
Dr. Elias Abboud, the physician who oversees the clinic, says he called the office manager after he saw there was an arrest made to check if Rodney Earl Sanders had been a patient at the clinic but he was not.
Sanders was arrested late Friday in the deaths of two nuns whose bodies were found Thursday. Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held were both nurses who had spent about 30 years helping people in Mississippi.
Abboud says the community and the patients will miss them.
Father Greg Plata (PLATT-ah) of Greenwood, Mississippi, is sacramental minister at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, where the Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill had led Bible study for years.
Plata said Saturday that he does not think people at the church knew 46-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko, who has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the slayings of the nuns.
Sanders was arrested late Friday and is being held at an undisclosed location while he waits for an initial court appearance to be set. Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said Saturday he does not know whether Sanders is represented by an attorney.
The bodies of Held and Merrill were found Thursday in their home in Durant, Mississippi.
The order of one of the nuns killed in Mississippi has issued a statement that thanks the law enforcement officers who are working on the case.
The statement by the U.S. Province Leadership Team, School Sisters of St. Francis, says Sister Margaret Held belonged to their community.
The community offered its "deepest appreciation" to investigators and to "the hundreds of people and organizations who offered their prayers and words of support in the wake of the sisters' deaths."
The bodies of Held and Sister Paul Merrill of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were found Thursday in their Mississippi home. The women worked as nurse practitioners at a clinic for the poor. Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko (cause-ee-EH-sko), Mississippi faces capital murder charges in their deaths.
The nephew of a nun who was killed in Mississippi says he's thankful a suspect has been arrested so that no one else is at risk but that it does not bring closure to the grieving family.
David Merrill, speaking by telephone from Stoneham, Mass., says he heard about the arrest of Rodney Earl Sanders early Saturday morning.
He says the family is "thankful that he's off the streets," but the family still has to deal with the loss.
Sanders is accused of killing Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held, whose bodies were found Thursday in their Mississippi home.
David Merrill says he agrees with the idea of forgiveness and trying to forgive the person who killed his aunt and her fellow nun. But he says he's "not as strong" as his aunt, and he's not sure if he's "capable of completely forgiving."
Authorities in Mississippi don't anticipate any more arrests in the slayings of two nuns.
Forty-six-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko (cause-ee-EH-sko), Mississippi, was charged late Friday with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68.
State Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain tells The Associated Press that as of Saturday, "investigators believe Sanders acted alone."
Sanders is being held at an undisclosed jail and his initial court appearance has not been set. Strain says he doesn't know whether Sanders is represented by an attorney.
The bodies of Held and Merrill were discovered Thursday in their home in Durant, Mississippi, after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in nearby Lexington, where they were nurse practitioners.
A spokeswoman for the Kentucky-based congregation where one of two murdered Mississippi nuns will be buried has expressed thanks to those working to solve the case.
Diane Curtis, director of communications for Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, based in Nazareth, Kentucky, tells The Associated Press in a statement early Saturday: "Our congregation expresses gratitude to all who have been working so hard on this investigation. At this time we continue to pray for everyone involved in this tragedy."
Forty-six-year-old Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko, Mississippi, was charged Friday night with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68.
Their bodies were discovered Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in Lexington, Mississippi, about 10 miles from where they lived.
Held will be buried in Wisconsin and Merrill will be buried at her congregation's headquarters in Nazareth, Kentucky.
Authorities say they have charged a 46-year-old man in connection with the deaths of two nuns who were killed in Mississippi.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said in a statement Friday night that Rodney Earl Sanders of Kosciusko has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both 68.
Their bodies were discovered Thursday after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in Lexington, Mississippi, about 10 miles from where they lived.
Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan says "Sanders was developed as a person of interest early on in the investigation."
Sanders is being held in an undisclosed detention center awaiting his initial court appearance.
STATEWIDE - A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a pair of rulings affecting Wisconsin's voter ID law, meaning no more changes to the requirement are likely before the November election.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday unanimously declined to have a full panel of judges hear appeals of two recent rulings affecting the voter ID requirement and a host of other election-related laws. The U.S. Supreme Court would have to intervene for any changes to happen before the election Nov. 8.
The appeals court's upholding the earlier rulings means that Wisconsin voters will have to show an acceptable ID to vote, but those having trouble getting it can get a temporary ID from the Division of Motor Vehicles.
MINOCQUA - The Minocqua Police Department wants a new member of its police squad--specifically a police dog.
The department has been fundraising for a K9 for the past year or so.
On Saturday the Lakeland Area Public Task Force held Lakeland Area Public Safety day as a way to raise money.
Squad cars, ambulance trucks, fire trucks, and every type of rescue crew from both Oneida and Vilas counties showed off their gear.
"These guys came out to donate their time so that these kids could have fun, climb around in fire trucks, squad cars, and the DNR boats, everything, just to educate them a little bit and to have a good time," said Minocqua Police Officer Matt Tate.
Police dogs can cost thousands of dollars. Officer Tate said the department is getting close to its goal, but isn't quite there yet.
The event wasn't just to raise money. It was also about community and education.
"It's important that we do these fundraising events so people see not only where some of their tax dollars are going but also look, these are the resources we have so if you need us you can call," Tate said.
This was first year of the event. Tate said they plan to host it next year and the proceeds for that will go to a different organization.
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