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'Best budget... probably in decades': Attorney General Kaul applauds new state budget's focus on criminal justice during Rhinelander visitSubmitted: 07/25/2019
Story By Lane Kimble

'Best budget... probably in decades': Attorney General Kaul applauds new state budget's focus on criminal justice during Rhinelander visit
RHINELANDER - Wisconsin will add more than 60 assistant district attorneys and nearly double the hourly pay of public defenders from $40 an hour to $70.

Attorney General Josh Kaul told Newswatch 12 during a stop in Rhinelander on Thursday he considers those changes some of the best ones made in a state budget in decades, if not ever.

Forest and Langlade Counties will directly benefit.  Each will add an assistant prosecutor.  It's the largest increase in such jobs in Wisconsin since 2007.


Kaul thinks those steps will help lead to more of a focus on prosecuting sex crimes after he and former Attorney General Brad Schimel pushed to clear a backlog of untested rape kits.

"There's still a lot more work to be done on that front, but it's a notable change and approach and I think it's going to make our criminal justice system fairer and more efficient as a result," Kaul said.

Kaul says the new budget also puts more money into state crime labs and adds a DOJ prosecutor specifically focused on those cases. Still, he said Wisconsin and local communities need to provide more resources to help sex assault victims.

Kaul also updated Newswatch 12 on the state's fight to stop the opioid crisis.

Treating opioid addictions in places such as the Northwoods could benefit from looking at a wheel, Kaul explained. He wants the state to look into taking a "hub and spoke" model approach..

Kaul says counties could create local addiction treatment centers, while the state helps provide "hubs" in larger cities where longer-term care is needed.

But who pays for it? Kaul says suing drug manufacturers, as Wisconsin has, could generate a lot more money. Wisconsin sued Purdue Pharma and the company's former president in state court last month. Kaul says the company misled people by "overstating" the benefits and downplaying the harm opioid prescriptions can produce.

"To the extent that there's been false and deceptive conduct that's led to it, that money should be coming back to the communities that it's impacting," Kaul said.

Kaul considers the opioid and growing meth epidemics the largest public safety issue the entire country faces.

He says education -- and fewer prescriptions-- are also keys to limiting addictions.

Kaul was in the Northwoods Thursday to meet with a group of police chiefs from north-central Wisconsin. He says their main focus was on emergency detention centers, which are used when people are brought in for their own and other peoples' safety during a mental health crisis.

The attorney general says there is only one state facility for such intake and it's in Winnebago County.

"People in law enforcement are making very long drives just to get to Winnebago County and then there's the intake process that happens, there may be subsequent hearings, so it's a lot of time that officers aren't able to spend working in their communities," Kaul said.

Kaul sees parallels between addressing mental health issues and drug addictions. He hopes state and local governments focusing more on local mental health will allow police to crack down on violent offenders and large-scale drug dealers.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

AINSWORTH - A 25-year-old man is dead following an ATV crash in Ainsworth around 11 p.m. Saturday.

The Langlade County Sheriff's Department and Pickerel Fire and Rescue responded to the accident.

The ATV was the only vehicle involved in the crash.

First responders used life-saving measures but were unable to save the man.

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TUXEDO, N.Y. - The latest weapon in the fight against invasive species is the sniffing power of dogs trained to find noxious weeds before they flower and spread seeds.

The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained a Labrador retriever named Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established.

Detection dogs have long been used to sniff out drugs, explosives and disaster survivors. Now there's a growing number being trained to find targeted invasive plants so conservationists can uproot them.

Montana-based Working Dogs for Conservation is training dogs to find invasive insects and mussels as well as plants.

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DES MOINES, IOWA - An Iowa-based grocery chain says it's aware of reports that hacked customer account information is being sold online.

The Des Moines Register was the first to report that credit and debit card information of some Hy-Vee customers is being sold on an internet site for $17 to $35 apiece.

Hy-Vee issued a statement to station KCCI saying it is aware of reports of the stolen information being sold and is working with payment card networks to identify the cards and work with issuing banks.

Hy-Vee acknowledge earlier this month that it detected unauthorized activity on some of its payment processing systems linked to card payments at Hy-Vee restaurants, fuel pumps and drive-thru coffee shops. The company doesn't believe the breach extended to payments systems used inside its grocery stores, drugstores and convenience stores.

Hy-Vee operates more than 240 retail stores across Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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MILWAUKEE - The American Farm Bureau Federation says that July 2018 through June 2019, Wisconsin farmers filed 45 Chapter 12 bankruptcies. Data show the total was five fewer than the previous 12-month period but still No. 1 in the nation.

In Minnesota, bankruptcy filings increased by 11, to 31.

North Dakota had nine filings, up one from the previous period. South Dakota increased by 12, to 13.

The Journal Sentinel reports that with depressed milk prices besetting Wisconsin's thousands of dairy operations, the state has led the country in farm bankruptcies in recent years.

Ronald Wirtz, regional outreach director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, also has pointed to Wisconsin's smaller average farm size as a factor.

According to the Farm Bureau, which used U.S. Courts data to compile the report.

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LAC DU FLAMBEAU - The Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl Living Arts and Culture Center hosted a Native American Arts and Craft Show and Sale Saturday. The event was held at the Lake of the Torches Resort Casino Conference Center. 

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ROLLING MEADOWS, ILL. - A Wisconsin man has been convicted of murder in the drowning death of his wife 19 years ago in the bathroom of their suburban Chicago home.

A Cook County judge announced the verdict Friday against 70-year-old Frank Buschauer, saying he didn't believe Buschauer's claims of a memory lapse over what led up to Cynthia Hrisco's February 2000 death in South Barrington.

The initial investigation ruled her manner of death as undetermined. Buschauer moved to Pell Lake, Wisconsin, before the case was reopened and he was arrested in 2013.

Three forensic pathologists determined Hrisco's death was a homicide, with the autopsy finding numerous injuries to her face, arm and legs indicating a struggle.

Defense attorney Allan Ackerman said an appeal of the verdict is planned.

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RHINELANDER - Cancer affects hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin.

29-year-old Cora Rizzo is one of the many battling the disease.

On Saturday, the community rallied around Rizzo in the fight for her life.

Dozens of people came to Rizzo's cancer benefit at the Quality Inn in Rhinelander.

Jessica Meinart organized the event to raise money for her sisters' treatment.

"Knowing that you have this support system around you [and] that you can lean on anyone, and people are going to be there to catch you when you fall. I think that's the most important through it all," said Meinart.

Two years ago, Rizzo was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer.

Thanks to extensive treatment, she battled it into remission.

Earlier this year the cancer came back, this time in her stomach.

"You just have to give it all you've got, really," said Rizzo. "You've just got to fight and try to be positive. Half the treatment is just being positive about it."

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