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Activist speaker slams Republican policies in Walker's presence Monday; HS grad rates rise; 'Native Mob' trial starts, more state briefs

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered in speeches and ceremonies across Wisconsin on Monday.

MADISON -- The widow of a legendary Milwaukee civil rights leader slammed Wisconsin Republican policies Monday at the state's official celebration of Martin Luther King Day.

With Gov. Scott Walker just a few feet away, Margaret Rozga said anyone who tries curtail collective bargaining by workers, or suppresses the right to vote "doesn't stand with us." Her comments drew cheers from the hundreds who attended the King Day ceremony at the Capitol.

Rozga was the wife of Fr. James Groppi, who led Milwaukee protest marches in the 1960's which succeeded in ending housing discrimination in that city.

At Monday's ceremony, she was accepting an award on Groppi's behalf when she criticized the Wisconsin law which virtually eliminated most public union bargaining and required a photo I.D. to vote. Rozga also criticized the bill which makes it easier to build new mines, saying her family loves Wisconsin's natural resources and she doesn't want to see them endangered.

She did not mention Walker by name and Walker made no reference to her comments when he later read a proclamation of Martin Luther King Day. The governor quoted the slain civil rights leader, saying "Hatred doesn't drive out hate - Only love can do that."

State's food banks form new alliance

Wisconsin's largest food banks are forming a state association to create new and more efficient ways to feed the hungry.

The Wisconsin Association of Feeding-America Food Banks is expected to be announced Tuesday.

Feeding America is the former Second Harvest organization. The new group says it will develop and coordinate public- and private partnerships to help end hunger in Wisconsin.

They plan to raise public awareness, and find new sources for both food and revenue.

United Health-Care says it will donate $100,000 to get the new state association off the ground. The group includes the eastern Wisconsin chapter of Feeding America, along with the Channel One regional food bank, the "Feed My People" food bank, and three Second Harvest banks. Together, those facilities serve all of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

High school grad rates continue to climb

MADISON -- Wisconsin's high school graduation rate has gone up every year since 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which says that 91 percent of public school students finished high school in four years by the spring of 2010.

That figure is 5 percent above the state's rate from seven years earlier and Wisconsin's most recent graduation rate is 13 points above the national average of 78 percent.

The federal report said the state's dropout rate was around two percent - one-percent below the national norm.

African-Americans had the highest dropout rate in the state, at eight percent. Hispanics and Indians had dropout rates of around five percent each.

Office that awards grants may shift to AG's domain

MADISON -- A state office that distributes law enforcement grants could soon be transferred from the governor's administration to the attorney general's office.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Gov. Scott Walker is thinking about letting the Justice Department run the state Office of Justice Assistance. The Republican Walker might include the change in his proposed state budget that he'll give to lawmakers next month. None of the affected parties are commenting.

The office was created in 1987 under former Gov. Tommy Thompson. It collects crime data, seeks federal funding, and distributes grants to various Wisconsin police agencies and social service programs.

Some of the better-known grants are aimed at fighting domestic violence against women, and boosting Homeland Security efforts. The Journal Sentinel says governors have closely guarded those law enforcement funds - especially at times when they don't agree with the elected attorney general.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said it makes more sense for law enforcement to be in charge of those dollars - especially at a time with federal police funds are drying up.

When Walker was the Milwaukee County executive, Clarke said he gave the sheriff more power to administer funding grants.

Newspaper probe will likely curtail 'tax stamp' arrests

JANESVILLE -- Some Wisconsin drug dealers are still being charged with not having a required state tax stamp for their products - even though the Revenue Department stopped selling those stamps in 2004.

A federal appeals court said back then that the tax stamp law was all but unconstitutional but people still get arrested for it and it's a felony with up to six years in prison.

The Janesville Gazette said 28 people were charged last year with violating the now-defunct tax stamp requirement. In the wake of that news story, the State Patrol says it will soon issue an executive order telling all state troopers to stop arresting people for not having what they can no longer get.

Sgt. Nate Clark of the Milwaukee High-Intensity Drug Trafficking enforcement group said he didn't know that tax stamps are no longer being sold until now.

The governor and Legislature started requiring drug tax stamps in 1989 to get a bigger take from the illegal drug trade, but the State Supreme Court said it forced people to incriminate themselves and it was ruled unconstitutional in 1997.

Lawmakers then fine-tuned the law. In 2004, a federal appeals court said the state was wrong to seize almost $5,000 from a drug dealer's assets to pay for a tax stamp. The court said the tax was so severe that it was really a punishment and adding a drug charge constitutes double jeopardy. The state simply stopped selling the tax stamps after that.

Most of Wisconsin below zero today

SULLIVAN -- All of Wisconsin remains below zero, as folks awakened to the coldest morning of the winter.

It was 20-below in Hayward at 6 a.m. and Rhinelander had 19-below. Milwaukee had minus-five and several places in far southern Wisconsin were at minus-four. Wind-chill factors hit 40-below at Rhinelander, and minus-36 at Ashland.

Light snow fell in the far north overnight, and other places had isolated flurries.

The National Weather Service says parts of Wisconsin will have lows below-zero every night this week, but this morning was the worst of it. Hayward had an actual temperature of minus-23 during the night. Most parts of the state are expected to get above zero Tuesday - and Tuesday night's lows are supposed to bottom out at 15-below in the far north.

The far south could stay above zero, with lows of plus-two expected. More scattered flurries and light snow are possible every day through Friday.

Bitter cold is thought to have contributed to least one death in Wisconsin, as a Green Bay man was found dead outside his house Monday morning.

Green Bay Police found the body of a 38-year-old man outside his house near the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Officials said the man lived alone and his vehicle was found at an east side Green Bay tavern.

Police say they're trying to figure out what the man did on Sunday night, and how he tried to get home. His name was not immediately released.

Former Walker aide to be sentenced Tuesday

MILWAUKEE -- A former top aide to Gov. Scott Walker will be sentenced this morning, after he stole over $20,000 while Walker was the Milwaukee County executive.

Tim Russell, 49, admitted taking money from the Heritage Guard Preservation Society, which put on an annual program at the county zoo for Wisconsin veterans.

Russell pleaded guilty in November to an embezzlement charge. Two theft counts and a misconduct charge were dropped in a plea deal. Prosecutor Bruce Landgraf has recommended two years in prison, while defense lawyer Parker Mathers will seek no prison time and three years of probation.

In a pre-sentence report, Landgraf accused Russell of trying to use excuses to have the judge go easy on him. Landgraf said Russell wrongly claimed that the embezzled money was a salary to himself. The prosecutor also said Russell now claims to be the only caretaker for his 94-year-old grandmother but that never came up during the two-year-old John Doe investigation into Walker's former Milwaukee County aides.

Mathers said the prosecutor misinterpreted Russell's remarks. He said Russell never claimed to be his grandmother's sole caretaker - and he's not trying to reverse his guilty plea for the embezzlement.

Family, authorities uncertain how missing snowmobiler survived

SUPERIOR -- Authorities and family members still cannot explain how missing snowmobiler Craig Friebe survived for two bitter cold nights on the Nemadji River in the Superior area.

Bruce Friebe said his brother was in fair condition in the intensive care unit of a Duluth burn center, after a snowplow driver found him alive Monday morning. Officials said 51-year-old Craig Friebe had obvious frostbite and possible hypothermia and his brother couldn't talk because he was under sedatives and medication.

Friebe was last seen with a group of ice fishermen on Saturday and he later went snowmobiling before his machine ran out of gas on the Nemadji River. First responders said Friebe was incoherent when they found him, but he was still talking.

He told them he built a fire to keep warm on Saturday night but he had no such luck on Sunday night when it got down to 15-below. DNR warden John Krull said the wind chills were deadly on both nights, and only a person with "top notch survival skills" could have made it.

A plow driver found Friebe close to the shore Monday near Oliver, about 20 miles southwest of Superior. Krull figured that Friebe ran out of gas somewhere on the Minnesota side of the Nemadji River, and then walked more than 20 miles.

Krull says he's not sure why it took him so long to cover that distance, other than his rest at night.

Bruce Friebe could only explain that God spared his brother and "It wasn't his time."

Trial to start against 'Native Mob' gang

MINNEAPOLIS -- A federal trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Minneapolis for three members of an Indian gang that's known to terrorize people - including those on Wisconsin reservations.

Wakinyon McArthur, 34, is the alleged leader of the Native Mob. McArthur, 25-year-old William Morris, and 26-year-old Anthony Cree all face numerous charges that include conspiracy to commit racketeering, and attempted murder to carry out racketeering.

The case is part of a 57-count indictment with 25 defendants. Prosecutors say the racketeering charges are a tool that's used very rarely against gangs and observers say it's an indication that the government is trying to take down the entire organization.

The National Gang Threat Assessment from 2011 listed the Native Mob as among the nation's most violent Indian gangs, most active in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and the Dakotas. Officials allege it was formed in the 1990's to set up turf for drug dealing.

McArthur's lawyer, Frederick Goetz, said there was never any racketeering. He said the accusations involve individual, sporadic acts by youngsters who've had a tough time on reservations.

Shot fired in Elkhorn hospital

ELKHORN -- A gun was fired at a hospital in Elkhorn Monday night during an altercation between a Walworth County sheriff's deputy and a patient who was a prisoner.

Adam Beeson of the Aurora Medical Center would not give any information on the patient's condition, citing privacy laws.

Walworth County sheriff's officials told a reporter that the officer's weapon was discharged at one point.

The department asked investigators from nearby Waukesha County to look into the incident.

Madison hit-and-run victim, roll-over driver identified

MADISON -- A man killed in a possible hit-and-run traffic crash in Madison has been identified as Aryle Dahlke, 66, of Madison. Preliminary autopsy results showed that he died from blunt force trauma to his head and neck.

Police found him lying along a road on Madison's east side on Sunday night. He died a short time later at UW Hospital.

Police say they're still trying to determine what caused Dahlke's injuries and anyone with information is asked to call Madison's Crime-Stoppers' program.

On Monday morning, the driver killed in a one-vehicle rollover just off the Highway 151 expressway was identified as 53-year-old Frederick Smith of Madison. A 28-year-old passenger, a man from Juneau, was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.

The crash occurred just north of Sun Prairie. Authorities said the car left an off-ramp, fell down an embankment, and rolled over several times. Dane County sheriff's deputies said speed and alcohol appeared to be factors.

Cops seek driver who abandoned dog in -10 weather

MERRILL -- Authorities in north central Wisconsin are looking for the person who abandoned a dog near a freeway exit in 10-below weather.

Lincoln County sheriff's deputies are treating it as an animal abuse case.

A passerby found a mixed-breed dog tied to a post Monday on the Hwy. 51 freeway near Merrill. Deputies took the pet to the local Humane Society. The male dog had a collar, but no tags.

Lt. Tim Fischer said the pet is in relatively good health, but it's a bit nervous around strangers. Now, officials say he just needs a good home.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU