- A snowplow driver in Lincoln Co. couldn't believe what he was seeing last month.
The Town of Russell driver, Jesse Mattson, said he had just knocked over a mailbox by accident while plowing snow on a gravel road near Gleason.
Then, according to Mattson, the mailbox's owner, Peter Wegner, wheeled his SUV in front of the snowplow, forcing it to stop. Wegner got out with a baseball bat, threatened to kill Mattson, and tried to force his way into the cab.
"Normal people just don't act like some kind of cowboy vigilante," Mattson said Tuesday. "It's scary. I'm not that big. When a guy like that has a bat, all you can think of is protecting yourself."
Mattson had called 911, and a dispatcher was on the line as Wegner climbed toward the cab. Mattson said Wegner got in a few swings and knocked the wind of out him.
Mattson thinks it was the third time this winter he's knocked over the mailbox, all by accident, and all from the force of spraying snow and ice from the road, not from contact with the blade itself.
"No one ever leaves [for] work in the morning, leaves their wife or their fiancée or their girlfriend or their kids and thinks, 'Well, I'm going to go plow the roads, today I could be assaulted.' I shouldn't have to face a deadly weapon just doing my job, taking care of my town," Mattson said.
Mattson is in his first year working for the town.
Wegner is also a public employee, working as the assistant planning and zoning director in Oneida Co. Two weeks ago, he was honored by the county planning and development committee for 20 years of service.
Lincoln Co. Assistant District Attorney Kurt Zengler charged Wegner with two misdemeanors, battery and disorderly conduct. But the Town of Russell is concerned Wegner won't be punished enough.
In a March 6 letter, Zengler offered Mattson the opportunity to weigh in on a deal he was proposing. Prosecutors would dismiss the charges against Wegner after twelve months if he completes alcohol evaluation and treatment, isn't arrested, and stays away from Mattson.
Mattson and the town are contesting the plan.
"As far as the prosecutor, I'm not happy. I feel this needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent to set a precedent," said Russell Town Board Supervisor Dave Heller. "To give a slap on the hand and then all this [goes] away after so long, it's not right."
Heller feels the proposal sets a bad course for protecting public employees.
"You don't want everybody, whether it's in the Town of Russell, Lincoln Co., Marathon Co., wherever, to think that they have the right to go after a municipal employee on their own," Heller said.
Zengler didn't respond to a call for comment on the plan on Tuesday.
Mattson is glad he doesn't have lasting injuries. Now, he's hopeful to see punishment that leaves people like him confident in their cabs.
"There has to be a precedent set that we're safe at work," Mattson said. "We're trying to keep people safe. We would expect the same."
Wegner and Mattson took out restraining orders against each other after exchanging threatening text messages.
Wegner didn't respond to calls or emails on Tuesday.
His attorney, Brian Bennett, chose not to comment on the case.
The Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office denied Newswatch 12's open records request for the 911 call and documents in the case, citing a continuing court proceeding.
The next event on the calendar in Wegner's criminal case is a scheduling conference on March 28.