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80-year prison term recommended for child-abuse ‘monster’; Gogebic needs permits from county clerks, foresters; more state news

A Racine man could spend the rest of his life in prison after he molested six kids and made videos of the assaults with titles like "Monster Unleashed."

Alexander Richter, 30, will be sentenced this afternoon. Prosecutors are recommending 80 years behind bars, thus making it all but impossible for Richter to ever go free.

He pleaded no contest to four charges related to child sexual assault. Forty-five other counts were dropped in a plea deal. Those counts were filed just over a year ago.

Authorities said Richter volunteered to babysit children of his fellow classmates at Gateway Technical College. He then had sex on camera with boys and girls age 5 to 12, who cried and begged him to stop.

Police said they seized almost two dozen videos from Richter's apartment along with almost 200 photos of child pornography.


Gogebic needs permits from county clerks, foresters

Gogebic Taconite must get several approvals from state and local officials before it can check out rock samples at its proposed iron ore mine.

The Department of Natural Resources has completed its review of a scaled-back proposal to study potential iron ore in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron counties.

DNR project manager Larry Lynch said Gogebic Taconite would have to get a storm-water permit, claim an exemption from an air permit, file notices of tree cutting, produce a bond for reclamation and file reports with county clerks and foresters.

At first the company wanted to excavate 4,000 tons of rock at five locations. The DNR questioned that plan, and critics spoke out against blasting as part of the work.

Gogebic later revised its plans. Iron ore would be extracted from three sites, and blasting would only be used if the firm could not get enough material from its excavation work.


Tommy teams with Nebraska Democrat to lobby for federal benefits to Midwest

Tommy Thompson was an endless cheerleader for Wisconsin during his 14 years as governor. Now, he plans to do the same for the entire Midwest.

Thompson is teaming up with Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson to co-chair the new bipartisan Midwest Council, which will lobby Congress in the hopes of bringing more federal benefits to a region that's often been overlooked in the past.

Thompson was Wisconsin’s governor from 1987 through 2000 and then spent four years as the nation's Health and Human Services secretary.

Nelson is a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator.

The two will unveil their plans today to the National Press Club in Washington.

Thompson says the goal is to give the Midwest a "larger voice in DC."  The Midwest has lost factory jobs in recent years, and it lost representation in Congress to faster-growing regions like the Southwest.

Richard Longworth of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said the Midwest is "miserable" in speaking up for itself because the states have a hard time cooperating with each other. So far, the Midwest Council is getting most of its corporate support from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. It hopes to eventually line up 12 states under its wing.


New deputy thwarts burglary of former sheriff’s home

A Beaver Dam man picked the wrong place to commit a burglary.

Dodge County authorities said the 45-year-old man entered the home of former Sheriff Todd Nehls in Fox Lake yesterday, and Deputy Taylor Nehls, Todd's son, walked in when the burglary was happening.

Sheriff Pat Ninmann said Taylor was off duty at the time. He stopped by his father's house to get some ice-fishing equipment when he caught the burglar, who apparently had the former sheriff's loaded .380 handgun. Taylor Nehls held the suspect at gunpoint until officers arrived and completed the arrest.

Both Ninmann and the former sheriff commended Taylor for his actions. Both said the suspect could have easily shot the officer, but Taylor knew exactly what to do. He pushed the suspect against a wall, patted him down and took the handgun away. Taylor had just finished his field training two weeks earlier.

The former sheriff quoted the burglar as saying he made a big mistake -- once he learned whose home he had broken into. He's now in jail awaiting charges.

--Craig Warmbold, WBEV-WXRO, Beaver Dam


New law mandates more math, science classes

Wisconsin high school students will have to take more math and science courses under a bill signed by Gov. Scott Walker Wednesday.

He said it would help students get better prepared for computer science careers. The governor signed the bill at a Madison technology firm during national Computer Science Education Week.

The new law requires high school youngsters to take three credits each of math and science instead of the current two. Computer science classes will count as math credits for the first time, and agricultural science will count as science credits. Also, schools will get more flexibility in granting math and science credits to students who are in technical education and career programs.

The measure is designed to put Wisconsin's requirements more in line with its neighbors. State public school Superintendent Tony Evers calls it an "important step forward" to help students graduate from college and become ready for careers.


Wind-chill was only 21 below this morning

It's not as cold today in northern Wisconsin where 30 below wind-chills were common the past couple mornings.

Rhinelander had the state's coldest wind-chill at minus 21 at 7 a.m. Antigo was at minus 20, and most other Badger State locations had wind-chills in the minus teens.

Unlike yesterday, the actual early morning temperatures did not drop below minus 10 in the north. However, it did get a little colder in southern Wisconsin. It was in the single digits this morning after many parts of the south were in the teens early yesterday.

Cloudy skies kept the mercury from plunging in the north. Some places had light snow. Neillsville had an inch overnight.

It's supposed to get a little warmer the next couple days with highs in the single digits above zero in the northwest to the 20's in the south. All of Wisconsin could see 20degrees on Saturday with a new chance of snow through the weekend.


Duluth-Superior investigators report arrests involving 10 human trafficking

Duluth-Superior authorities say they've made almost 10 prostitution arrests over the last six weeks related to human trafficking.

Investigators from the Superior and Duluth police departments, the Douglas County sheriff's office and the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force conducted three sting operations. They involved online advertising for paid sex, and they netted two women from Superior suspected of prostitution and seven alleged customers.

Superior Deputy Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said the arrests have elements of human trafficking since many people engaged in prostitution are not doing it voluntarily. He said somebody might be forcing them into it by withholding money or drugs, threatening to take away food or housing, or involving physical harm or the possibility of it.

--Minnesota News Network


Bus line ends route from Eau Claire to Duluth

Bus riders in Eau Claire have lost a direct connection to Duluth-Superior.

Jefferson Lines said yesterday that it ended the route it ran for two years between Duluth and Eau Claire due to low ridership.

People can still ride an indirect route from Duluth to the Twin Cities and then stopping at Eau Claire on another route that continues to Green Bay. But last Friday's shutdown of the direct route ended bus service in smaller towns like Bloomer, Chetek, Rice Lake, Spooner, Minong and Solon Springs.

Kevin Pursey of Jefferson Lines said the firm did not like discontinuing the service, but the line did not attract enough riders to make it viable.


Congress expected to vote on Ryan-sponsored budget deal

The U.S. House is expected to vote today on the federal budget agreement crafted in part by Janesville's Paul Ryan. Most of Wisconsin's other House Republicans are not on board with the plan as of now.

Ryan, the House budget chairman, worked with his Democratic Senate counterpart on a two-year package announced late Tuesday. It would cut federal spending by an extra $20 billion above previously intended levels, while backing off on some of the sequestration budget cuts for domestic and military spending. There are also new revenues that include fee hikes.

Sean Duffy of Weston was the only Wisconsin House Republican to publicly praise the new package. He said it would provide certainty to families and businesses and break the congressional gridlock over the budget.

House Republicans Reid Ribble, Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner did not comment, and neither did Democrat Gwen Moore.

Democrat Ron Kind called it a fair but not perfect bargain. Democrat Mark Pocan was disappointed that it does not prevent federal jobless benefit money from expiring this month.

On the Senate side, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson said he agreed with Ryan's goals to prevent future government shutdowns. Johnson believes Ryan got the best deal he could, but he has concerns he'll want to address.

Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin said the deal's not perfect, but it will end "this destructive pattern of drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next."


State panel gives final OK for $24 million Dairy Expo pavilions

New cattle and horse pavilions will be built in Madison in time for next fall's World Dairy Expo.

The final piece of the funding puzzle was put in place yesterday when the State Building Commission approved $9 million to build the New Holland Pavilions. Two multi-purpose facilities will replace the current barns at Madison's Alliant Energy Center, for almost $24 million.

World Dairy Expo, Dane County, the Wisconsin Horse Council and the Midwest Horse Fair also provided funding. New Holland spent $500,000 for naming rights.

The new pavilions will have an extra 100,000 square feet under roofs. Construction begins after the Horse Fair in April.

Also, the Building Commission approved design and planning work for a new chemistry and biology building at UW-Stevens Point, with more classroom space to ease cramped conditions. The panel also OKed construction of a new student center at UW-La Crosse and design work for a new science lab facility on that campus.

--Bob Meyer, Brownfield Ag News and Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


Appeals court rejects religious rights claim

A federal appeals court will not reconsider a Rhinelander family's claim that its religious freedom was violated.

The Jaros family has been stymied for almost a decade in its effort to open a Bible camp and conference center on Squash Lake in the Oneida County town of Woodboro. Town and county governments said no to the required permits for the project, saying it did not meet conditions for proper zoning.

The Jaros family said the denials violated their rights under a 13-year-old federal law. They said it forbids the denial of religious land use through zoning.

In February Madison federal judge William Conley disagreed that the Jaros' religious rights were violated. A three-judge appellate panel ruled the same way in October.

This week, the full Seventh Circuit Appeals Court in Chicago said it would not hold a re-hearing in the case. Meanwhile, the family has filed a new state lawsuit in Oneida County. A hearing in that matter has yet to be scheduled.

--Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander


Income-tax credit for preserving historic buildings raised to 20%

More of Wisconsin's historic buildings will be preserved by having taxpayers pick up more of the tab.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill yesterday that increases the state income tax credit for historic preservation to 20% of a project's cost. That's up from 10%, and that amount was doubled just five months ago as part of the new state budget.

Walker signed the bill at the Hotel Northland in downtown Green Bay, which could get some of the new tax breaks in a redevelopment. The governor said the measure could revitalize downtown districts throughout Wisconsin.

Assembly Republican Chad Weininger of Green Bay sponsored the bill. He said it's needed for Wisconsin to keep up with other states.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation says 31 states offer tax credits to preserve older buildings -- most in the 20% to25% range for commercial projects.

Lawmakers of both parties approved the new increase, except for a few conservatives who said it might result in a large jump in tax breaks. The new law requires three state agencies to review those costs in 2017 and then decide whether the tax credit should continue. The Joint Finance Committee would have the final say.


Investigation into alleged abuse of cows continues

Brown County sheriff's deputies continue to investigate animal abuse exposed in a video from an animal rights group at the Wiese Brothers farm near Greenleaf.

District Attorney David Lasee said he has not been asked yet to consider criminal charges. State Senate Democrat Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee asked Lasee to prosecute the workers shown in the video made by the group Mercy for Animals. Carpenter joined dairy industry leaders in calling the video "reprehensible."

The video was first made public Tuesday, and it's gone viral on the Internet. That was after Nestle said it stopped using milk from the farm for some of the cheese in its DiGiorno pizza.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted several farmers as saying some of the practices shown in the video were not animal abuse, and that Mercy for Animals could be using it as propaganda. The group encourages a vegan diet.

Buffalo County dairy farmer John Rosenow said it's not rare for large farms to have disabled animals a couple times a month, and while they need to be convinced to move, they must be handled carefully.

The video showed workers dragging, kicking and whipping downed cows. One was seen suspended in the air. Wiese Brothers said it fired two workers involved and reassigned a third one.

Mercy for Animals says it's seeking talks with Nestle about making its milk suppliers follow guidelines against animal cruelty. Matt Rice said his group has not heard anything back from the company, but "We are hopeful."