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Van Hollen files federal appeal to uphold gay marriage ban; Bears give $50K to UW-Platteville; 11 more Wisconsin stories

MADISON -- Wisconsin's attorney general has asked a federal appeals court to continue the state's ban on gay marriage.

J.B. Van Hollen filed an appeal of last month's ruling from Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, who said the ban was unconstitutional.

The state had until July 21st to file its appeal with the Seventh Circuit appellate court in Chicago but Van Hollen acted Thursday after the same court agreed to speed up its consideration of a similar case in Indiana.

Van Hollen said he wanted to make sure Wisconsin was on an equal legal footing with Indiana, and that the state's case gets timely consideration.

Over 550 same-sex couples got married in Wisconsin after Crabb threw out the gay marriage ban, and before she put the ruling on hold while it's being appealed.

The main plaintiff in the case, the American Civil Liberties Union, has asked Crabb to drop her stay and allow same-sex marriages to continue for now. She has not ruled on that request.

On Thursday, ACLU attorney John Knight said he was disappointed that the state's still fighting to stop "loving committed couples" from marrying.

Gov. Scott Walker is a defendant in the case, so he technically joined Van Hollen in the appeal. However, the Republican Walker is trying to keep the issue out of his re-election campaign, by saying his past opposition to gay marriage no longer matters because it's in the courts' hands.

Former diplomat, Madison native heading to Russia

President Obama will nominate a Madison native as the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

The White House announced Thursday that career diplomat John Tefft plans to come out of retirement, to deal with plunging U.S. Russian relations in the wake of Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian state of Crimea. The U.S. Senate will be asked to confirm the 64-year-old Tefft, who graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1971. He's been an ambassador to the Ukraine, Georgia, and Lithuania.

Steven Pifer, a former diplomat who's now with the Brookings Institution, says Tefft is going to Moscow at a difficult time but he has a strong ability to keep lines of communication open.

The New York Times reported there were previous concerns that Tefft would irritate Russian officials because of his past experience in Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow's influence.

However, the Kremlin is said to approve of Tefft's new nomination. He graduated from Madison Edgewood High School in 1967 and studied history at Marquette.

Burke accused of hypocrisy on call to ban out-of-state contributors

MADISON -- The state Republican Party calls Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mary Burke a hypocrite, for saying she wants to ban campaign donations from outside of Wisconsin.

The GOP notes that Burke's campaign has received $1.1 million this year from out-of-state interests. Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki says she's just playing by the same rules as Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Burke has repeatedly said that special interest money from out-of-state has too much influence on Wisconsin campaigns.

On Thursday, the GOP circulated a video of Burke talking about the subject during a campaign visit to Green Bay and Republicans called her a hypocrite for taking such donations.

Zepecki said it doesn't mean Burke has to like it and her opposition is shared, as he put it, "by roughly 100 -percent of people with a pulse."

Ex-summer campers, Chicago Bears, gift UW-Platteville repair money

PLATTEVILLE -- UW Platteville is getting a donation from an interesting source to help fix its recent tornado damage.

The Chicago Bears were to present a $50,000 check to school officials on Friday.

The National Football League team held its annual training camps on the Platteville campus from 1984- through 2001.

Chancellor Dennis Shields is grateful for the gift, and he was encouraging people to wear orange and blue on Friday -- the colors that both the Bears and Platteville's athletic teams wear.

An estimated $10 million in damage was incurred June 16th when a tornado with winds up to 120 miles an hour damaged a campus park and a half-dozen buildings, including Platteville's football stadium.

Three missing kayakers found chilled, but safe

STURGEON BAY -- Three kayakers missing since late yesterday off Door County have been found safe. They were spotted on the tops of their kayaks in the Bay of Green Bay.

The Coast Guard searched overnight with boats and two helicopters.

A county official said they had hypothermia, but were otherwise okay. They were being flown to an airport in Menominee Michigan -- across the Bay of Green Bay -- where they were to be checked out. More details were expected at a news conference Friday morning.

A 43-year-old woman was in one kayak, and a pair of nine-year-old boys were in the other when they left Nicolet Bay at Peninsula State Park Thursday afternoon on the western edge of Door County. They were supposed to return 75 minutes later but didn't.

A kayak rental place later called 9-1-1 -- and federal, state, and local rescuers began a search that went into the overnight hours.

Out-of-state tax inquiries should arouse suspicion

MADISON -- People who never worked outside Wisconsin are getting letters from other states, saying their income tax returns are under review.

Consumer officials say you shouldn't brush it off a clerical mistake because you might be the victim of identity theft. Wisconsin's consumer protection agency has received a half-dozen complaints from people who had their names used by somebody else to file false income tax returns and perhaps claim refunds.

Revenue departments in those states are now going after the people who names were used. Wisconsin's consumer and revenue agencies are working with the Internal Revenue Service on the matter, as well as the states which sent the tax notices -- Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma.

Wisconsinites who receive a letter which wrongly says their out-of-state tax return is under review are urged to file a complaint with the Wisconsin Dept. of Consumer Protection.

Also, officials say individuals should respond the same way as other identity theft victims have by putting fraud alerts on credit accounts, reviewing credit reports, and filing police reports about the letters.

High Court affirms murder acquittal on technicality

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the reversal of a murder conviction against a Milwaukee man, which was based on statements he made as part of a plea deal in another case.

On a 4- to 3 vote Thursday, the justices ruled that a defendant's statements during plea negotiations cannot later be used against the person if the plea deal was never finalized.

The case involved Raphfeal Myrick, who was offered a reduction in charges in a 2009 murder, if he testified against another defendant in a 2007 slaying.

During a preliminary hearing, Myrick implicated himself in the 2009 murder and he later backed out of the deal and was sentenced to life in prison.

Myrick argued that his testimony at the prelim should not have been used against him, because state law prohibits statements made in plea negotiations to be used against a defendant later, regardless of whether a final plea agreement was achieved. An appellate court sided with Myrick earlier.

Homicide charges likely in SUV crash that killed 2

MILWAUKEE -- The driver of a sport utility vehicle faces possible felony charges, after her vehicle struck another unit in which two people were killed at a busy Milwaukee intersection.

The accident happened around 5:30 p.m. Thursday during the city's rush hour.

Milwaukee Police said a 62-year-old woman was driving the SUV when it drove through a red light and collided with a vehicle coming from her left. Two other drivers also got involved in the crash.

A 54-year-old woman, a 53-year-old man, and the SUV driver were all taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

Killed were a 52-year-old driver and a 45-year-old passenger in one of the two initial units that collided.

The SUV driver is in custody. Police said she could be charged with two counts of negligent homicide.

Bicyclist killed in collision with pickup

MANAWA -- A bicyclist was killed after he collided with a pick-up truck in central Wisconsin.

Waupaca County authorities said the two were traveling in the same lane when the bike made a sharp right turn into the path of the truck. The accident occurred late Thursday morning on a rural road in the town of Union near Manawa.

The cyclist was from rural Manawa, but his name was not immediately released. He suffered massive head injuries and died at the scene. He was not wearing a helmet.

Sheriff's officials said they do not expect the truck driver to be charged with anything.

Victim of van-semi crash identified

WEST ALLIS -- A suburban Milwaukee man killed in a two-vehicle crash in central Wisconsin has been identified as Michael Wess, 74, of West Allis.

The State Patrol said his van pulled from a stop-sign, and collided with a semi-truck coming from his left.

The crash occurred Wednesday afternoon near Wild Rose on Highway 22 at Waushara County Trunk "P."

Wess died at the scene. The 52-year-old trucker from Peshtigo was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Restaurant shooter convicted of lessor charge

MILWAUKEE -- A man who killed a cook at a George Webb restaurant in Milwaukee has been found guilty of a lesser charge.

A jury spared Delorean Bryson, 29, of a possible life prison sentence, by convicting him of first-degree reckless homicide Thursday instead of intentional homicide. He faces up to 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision when he's sentenced on Aug. 20.

Bryson was convicted of shooting 21-year-old Reginald Evans, who came out of the restaurant's kitchen to break up a brawl last December. Authorities said Bryson and several others were terrorizing customers at the time.

Three other defendants face separate trials on lesser charges ranging from disorderly conduct to harboring a felon.

During his four-day trial, Bryson testified that he shot his weapon to protect his cousin who was being threatened and he didn't know that he hit Evans.

Bryson's family members apologized to the victim's family. They said Bryson regretted what happened, and they were still in shock over it.

Coast Guard officer accused of improper conduct

MILWAUKEE -- A court martial has been ordered for a Coast Guard officer accused of having abusive sexual contact with a female staffer while he was working in Milwaukee.

The Coast Guard said Thursday that charges against Petty Officer Joshua Raymond would be referred to a general court martial. That was after a review that's similar to a grand jury hearing.

The court martial will be held in Cleveland. The date has not been set.

Raymond was accused of having improper sexual contact with a fellow service member at a party last November in Wauwatosa. He was transferred to Grand Haven, Mich. after that. His attorney says Raymond will plead innocent to all charges.

Witness in suspicious deaths collared in LaCrosse

LACROSSE -- A man sought as a witness to the deaths of two elderly people in Iowa has been picked up in La Crosse.

Jonathan Neunaber, 44, was detained Thursday evening after he was stopped for a traffic violation. He was held on a warrant from Iowa, as a material witness in what authorities call suspicious deaths.

Officials said two older people were found dead on Wednesday, and Neunaber lives at the home where the bodies were discovered near Akron in northwest Iowa.

Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo has not identified the victims. He said Neunaber might know what may have transpired before, during, or after the deaths.

The sheriff stressed that Neunaber has not been charged with anything.