End Domestic Abuse WI In The News

Monday 07/21/2014

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Domestic abuse shelters, often tucked away in the protective privacy of an obscure neighborhood, have begun moving out of the shadows with more public profiles aimed at generating more community support and better access for victims.

Tuesday 07/15/2014

An Oneida County judge has ruled that a northern Wisconsin man shouldn't be denied a concealed carry permit for his gun, despite the fact he has a domestic violence conviction on his record.

Monday 06/16/2014

Domestic violence continues to take the lives of many Wisconsin residents. A recent report from End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin indicates that a person in killed in a domestic violence-related incident on average once a week in the state. For each of these victims, there are thousands of other victims for whom violence or the threat of violence is an everyday reality.

Wisconsin’s law enforcement officers respond to tens of thousands of domestic violence calls each year. Statistics from 2012 show that 28,729 domestic abuse incidentswere reported to law enforcement and referred to prosecutors during the reporting period, representing a slight increase from 2011. As part of my annual Summit on Public Safety this month in Wisconsin Dells, law enforcement will learn about the link between domestic violence and stalking as it relates to lethality, and we’ll explore Maryland’s Lethality Assessment Program.

The Lethality Assessment Program is an evidence-based tool designed to assist first responders in identifying victims of domestic violence who are at the greatest risk of being killed, and encouraging them to seek domestic violence services.

The Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Resource Prosecutor also will facilitate a panel discussion with six Wisconsin police agencies, all of which have implemented innovative policing strategies in their communities to battle domestic violence. Through the discussion, law enforcement attendees will walk away with some new “tools” for their own communities.

Heroin use also continues to significantly impact much of Wisconsin, resulting in the loss of far too many lives. Through recent legislation, the Department’s Heroin prevention public awareness campaign “The Fly Effect,” and public engagement in the issue, we’ve collectively been able to better inform one another, but there’s still plenty of work to do in battling heroin’s deadly grasp, fueled largely, research shows, by the abuse of prescription drugs.

Results from a recent study, released online in JAMA Psychiatry, show “75 percent of those who began their opioid abuse in the 2000s reported that their first regular opioid was a prescription drug.” And, nearly every respondent, according to the study, indicated they used heroin instead of prescription drugs not only for the “high” from heroin, but because prescription drugs were more expensive and more difficult to get. This is further evidence that the link between Heroin abuse and the prescription drugs we keep in our household medicine cabinets is undeniable.

At this year’s summit, our presenters will share how local law enforcement can take the lead in prevention efforts by bringing together multiple disciplines and community stakeholders to reduce abuse and in turn, reduce drug-related crime in their neighborhoods, and save lives. We’ll also explore effective investigative techniques when responding to an overdose death to ensure that those who deliver drugs that kill are held accountable. Finally, the Director of Training and Development for the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children will share strategies for establishing community-based partnerships across disciplines to respond to the needs of a child exposed to drug abuse or domestic violence in the home. By sharing tools and information, law enforcement in your community will be better equipped not only to respond to crises but lead efforts to prevent them.

J.B. Van Hollen is Wisconsin’s attorney general.

From: Wausau Daily Herald

Monday 06/09/2014

MADISON — Former Calumet County district attorney Kenneth Kratz, who drew fire for sending unwanted, sexually charged text messages to a domestic abuse victim, will lose his law license for four months.

Monday 06/09/2014

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has slapped former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz with a four-month suspension of his law license and $23,000 in legal fees more than two years after Kratz was charged with sexually  harassing a domestic violence victim.

In 2009, Kratz sent dozens of sexually explicit text messages to a woman while he was prosecuting her boyfriend for strangling her.

Beth Schnorr of Harbor House Domestic Abuse services in Appleton said the four-month suspension doesn’t fit the crime, and that it ignores the impact his actions had on the victim.

“He's intimidating and harassing her when she’s already been a victim and now victimized again by someone in a position of power,” said Schnorr. “Four months and then he still gets to practice law after that – wow!“

A spokesman for End Domsetic Abuse Wisconsin, Tony Gibart, agreed with Schnorr.

“The court never acknowledges the wide impact that this atrocious behavior had on the system generally and in particular (on) vulnerable victims of crime.”

After the allegations became public, Kratz resigned as county prosecutor, went through sexual addiction treatment, got divorced, and filed for bankruptcy. Since then, he's started a new law firm specializing in criminal defense.

In a statement released on Friday, Kratz makes no mention of the victims of his actions, but says he's grateful he can still practice law and is working to help other attorneys deal with addictions that they suffer from.

In two concurring opinions in the Kratz ruling, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice David Prosser called for a thorough review of the way the Office of Lawyer Regulation investigates and prosecutes attorneys for ethical violations.

From: Wisconsin Public Radio

Wednesday 05/28/2014

When mass shootings happen, the explosive gun debate reloads across America. In Wisconsin, where nearly half of all households possess firearms and “God, guns and the Green Bay Packers” are worshipped as Trinity, we are as conflicted as ever. Some feel frustration, sadness and helplessness over a senseless death toll. Others say if there is indeed a “toll,” it’s about people, not their weapons. Is there room for middle ground? And is anyone actually seeking it?

Tuesday 05/13/2014
 
A recent state appeals court ruling could make it easier for local government agencies to refuse to
grant open records requests, though advocates for preventing domestic violence say the court
decision was made in the interest of protecting a Milwaukee Public Schools employee.
 
The ruling upheld a decision by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to deny Korry Ardell access
to the sick leave records of his ex-girlfriend. Ardell says he wanted to prove she was filing for leave
when she wasn't sick. He had previously been accused of abusing her, and a restraining order she
filed against him had just expired when he requested the records.
 
Tony Gibart of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says the ruling properly take into account the way
Ardell planned to use the records.
 
“To consider the safety of its employee, the school board obviously had to consider who the person
was, because this person had this history of stalking and harassing its employee,” said Gibart.
 
Bill Lueders, chair of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, says a ruling like this sets a
precedent that could unfairly block public records access to journalists or to average citizens who do
not intend to use them to harass or stalk someone. Lueders says records custodians aren't supposed to
consider who wants the records or why when responding to a request.
 
“Our experience is that any time you create through statue or court rulings some exception to the
rule that public records are public, authorities will seize on that to deny requests that they'd rather
not to fulfill,” said Lueders.
 
Lueders says the ruling may not prevent people like Ardell from getting the information he or she
wants because they can always ask someone else to make the request for them.
 
Monday 04/21/2014

When former Milwaukee County jail guard Aron Arvelo was charged recently with two felonies accusing him of secretly recording female co-workers, it wasn't the first time he had run into trouble for harassing women.

Monday 04/21/2014

MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker signed three bills Wednesday aimed at strengthening domestic-violence laws, including one measure proposed after a man fatally shot his estranged wife in 2012 while she was working at a Brookfield spa.

Monday 04/21/2014

“Do you feel safe at home?” the nurse asked the woman. The nurse was helping to identify and protect those who may be at risk for domestic violence.

Thursday 02/27/2014

MADISON — A legislative committee has approved a bill that would establish a standard process for seizing guns in domestic abuse cases in Wisconsin.

It was one of three gun measures addressed by legislators on Thursday.

The state Senate’s public safety committee passed the measure unanimously, setting up a full Senate vote. The measure passed the state Assembly last week. Senate approval would send the bill on to Gov. Scott Walker.

Wisconsin law requires people to surrender their guns if they’re subject to a domestic abuse injunction but doesn’t spell out how.

The bill from Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, would require the subject of an injunction to fill out a form documenting his or weapons. A judge would hold a hearing to order the person to surrender the weapons. The person would fill out a form requesting the guns’ return when the injunction expires.

Mandatory record checks endorsed

The Senate public safety committee also approved a bill that would require judges to gather police records on someone under an injunction before returning his or her guns.

The proposal by Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, would require judges to request the state Justice Department supply information on whether the person is otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun.

The committee approved the bill on a 5-0 vote. The vote clears the way for a full vote in the Senate. The Assembly approved the bill unanimously earlier this month.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association have both registered in support of the bill. The only group registered against it is Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc. The group’s website says it opposes all gun control.

Mandatory background checks sought

Democratic lawmakers are calling on Republicans to act on a bill requiring universal background checks for all gun sales in Wisconsin.

Current law requires only background checks for gun buyers from federally licensed dealers. The bill would require background checks would apply to all sales, including gun sales made online and at gun shows.

Sen. Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee, said an 18 percent increase in Milwaukee’s homicide rate is one reason to close what she called loopholes in the public safety system. Harris says without universal background checks the state’s current laws preventing felons from possessing guns are meaningless.

Legislators stood behind boxes of 16,500 signatures from Wisconsin residents who support universal background checks. Republicans have not scheduled the bill for a hearing.

From: The Associated Press.

Monday 04/21/2014

Madison — The Senate's public safety committee has approved a bill that would require judges to gather police records on someone under an injunction before returning his or her guns.

Friday 02/21/2014

Domestic violence groups are showing an interest in a potential state Supreme Court rule that would give judges leeway on how to deal with those representing themselves in court.

The rule, if the court adopts it, would permit judges to “make reasonable efforts to facilitate the ability of all litigants, including self-represented litigants, to be fairly heard.”

It also would offer a few examples of how a judge could better aid a self-represented litigant if the change is approved, such as explaining the proceedings and legal situations in plain terms, permitting narrative testimony and telling the parties what is expected of them.

The petition was put forth in September by the Access to Justice Commission and the court will hold a public hearing for it at 9:45 a.m. Monday.

So far, the proposal has elicited 35 letters of support, more than any other rule petition in recent months. Nine of those support letters are from domestic or sexual violence groups that say the measure is another step in ensuring that victims’ arguments are treated fairly by judges.

“It would be unrealistic to expect a person appearing pro-se to function with confidence and understanding without some assistance from a legal expert,” states a letter attributed to Braden Bayne-Allison, Vilas County Outreach Coordinator for Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.  “It would be beneficial if judges were to ensure that individuals understood the process during a hearing as it happens.”

Tony Gibart, policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin said the petition was something the group has monitored for some time. Many people who leave abusive relationships, he said, end up without a lawyer when they go in front of a judge for a restraining order or divorce.

“Not only the [court] process, but the substantive law can be confusing to lay people,” Gibart said. “It’s difficult for some attorneys to understand those, you can imagine … a victim.”

He said the group kept other shelters and advocates aware of the rules petition and its potential effects.

Wendy Gehl, legal advocate and staff supervisor for Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs in Appleton, said that the high costs of attorneys, combined with an economic downturn, has made it a “privilege” to have representation in court.

“At the end of the day, we want justice and we want fairness,” Gehl said. “Just because they can’t afford counsel doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have their position heard.”

The proposed rule change was modeled, at least in part, on an American Bar Association model code that sought to clarify how judges can help self-represented litigants while remaining impartial.

“It is not a violation of this rule,” the ABA’s model code states, “for a judge to make reasonable accommodations to ensure pro se litigants the opportunity to have their matters fairly heard.”

Wisconsin’s proposed rule change further notes “a judge’s exercise of such discretion will not generally raise a reasonable question about the judge’s impartiality.”

Commission member and retired Court of Appeals Judge Margaret Vergeront said she will testify in support at Monday’s public hearing, and expects judges and attorneys from across the state to weigh in, as well.

In addition to domestic violence groups, the petition drew letters from attorneys and judges from across the state. The Wisconsin Counties Association also is supporting it.

Vergeront said that the commission spent a lot of time while drafting the petition talking to attorneys, judges and groups to make sure that the proposal addressed all their needs.

She pointed out that the proposal is fairly “modest” when compared to other proposals to help indigent clients. This one merely clarifies a judge’s ethical boundaries, Vergeront said, and does not implement rules or projects that would cost money.

“When all is said and done,” she said, “there are still a lot of people who come to court without a lawyer.”

John Ebbott, executive director of Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc., called the proposal a “no brainer.”

“I’m not sure how anybody would oppose this,” he said.

Vergeront and supporters say this is just a small piece of what needs to be done, however.

“I think this is one way to improve,” Gehl said. “There are probably a lot of things that need to be done.”

From: Wisconsin Law Journal

Friday 02/14/2014

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans pushed Wednesday to clear the way for votes on domestic violence bills that would establish a process for seizing an abuser's guns, mandate tracking of non-arrests and require police to inform victims of their options.

Time is running out for the measures. The legislative session formally ends in April. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, wants to finish up even sooner, perhaps as early as next month. Legislators are scrambling to get as many bills out of committee and onto Assembly and Senate floor calendars as they can before they hit the summer campaign trail.

Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and End Domestic Violence Wisconsin, a Madison-based anti-domestic violence group, held a brief news conference urging lawmakers to pass Bies' bill setting up a formal legal process for confiscating guns from a person under a restraining order.

Current state law requires people to surrender their guns if they're subject to a domestic abuse injunction. But the law doesn't spell out exactly how the weapons should be seized.

Under Bies' bill, the subject of the injunction would have to fill out a form documenting his or her weapons. A judge would hold a hearing within a week to order the person to surrender the firearms. The director of state courts would have to develop a form the subject could fill out requesting the weapons be returned when the restraining order expires.

"Will it save the world? No. Will it save many? Yes," Teri Jendusa-Nicolai of Waterford said at the news conference. Jendusa-Nicolai's ex-husband, David Larsen, beat her with a baseball bat and stuffed her into a garbage can in a storage locker in 2004.

Bies introduced the bill in October. It passed the Assembly's public safety committee last month and no organizations have registered against the measure, according to state records. But Republican leaders haven't scheduled it for a floor vote yet.

Bies said he planned to meet with Vos on Wednesday afternoon to seek a vote next week. A Vos spokeswoman didn't immediately return an email message.

Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, introduced the other bill in April in response to a mass shooting at a Brookfield spa in October 2012. Radcliffe Haughton shot and killed his wife, Zina Haughton, and two of her co-workers at Azana Salon & Spa before turning the gun on himself. Brown Deer police came under fire for not arresting him following reports of abuse in 2011 and again several weeks before the shootings.

The bill would require officers who respond to a domestic abuse call but don't arrest anyone to write a report explaining why. The reports would go to prosecutors, who would include them in annual reports they make to the state Justice Department tallying domestic abuse arrests, prosecutions and convictions. The bill also would lay out new police training standards for domestic violence situations, including telling victims about their legal rights, shelters and victim advocates.

The measure passed the Assembly on a voice vote in June and landed in the Senate's public safety committee.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, scaled the bill back dramatically. His version requires district attorneys to report non-arrests to DOJ but does away with the officer reports. It doesn't mention training standards but still requires police to tell victims about their options.

Petrowski aide Lane Ruhland said Petrowski scaled the proposal back because he didn't want to interfere with another bill he's sponsoring that grants the Law Enforcement Training Board flexibility in determining training standards and DOJ officials feared the non-arrest reports could help defense attorneys. DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said the agency supports the changes but declined to elaborate.

Petrowski and Jacque were the only ones who testified on the new bill during a public hearing Wednesday. Both said the measure would help connect victims with services. End Domestic Violence Wisconsin Public Policy Coordinator Tony Gibart submitted a statement to the committee saying the bill will strengthen links between victims and police and build a clearer picture of law enforcement responses to domestic violence.

The committee could vote on the bill as early as next week. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, didn't immediately return a message inquiring about whether the bill could end up on a floor calendar.

 

From: the Associated Press.

Friday 01/17/2014

So far this year, two people in Wisconsin have died in gun-related murders. Today, Wisconsin Public Radio launches an occasional, year-long series on gun murders. We'll track where and why they occur, and follow law enforcement and community groups' efforts to try to prevent them. 

The first gun murder of the year took place at the Sidetracked Bar in Wausau on January 3rd. According to police reports, the victim, 27-year-old KC Christopher Elliot, was fighting in the bar parking lot with the suspect, 30-year-old John Lewis, when he was shot by what police believe was a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun. The gun has not been recovered. 

Police say the two men knew each other and the suspect has served prison time for drug trafficking crimes. According to Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, the apparent cause of this gun death fits the typical profile for gun murders in Milwaukee, where 85 people were shot to death last year.

“Many of these things are just arguments and fights between two people who are both carrying firearms,” Flynn says, “and somebody pulls a gun and we have a dead person.”

Milwaukee Police are are now investigating the shooting death of a twenty-year-old man killed on Wednesday on the city's south side. It's the second gun homicide in the state this year, and the first for the city. Yesterday police arrested an 18-year-old suspect in that murder. 

In 2012, the last year for which statewide figures are available, two-thirds of the 166 murders in the state involved a gun, and 61 percent of the perpetrators were between the age of 18 and 34 as were 48 percent of the victims. 

Mallory O'Brien of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission says usually both the victim and the suspect have a criminal record.  “For 2013, looking at the victims and suspects of homicide,” O'Brien said, “76 percent of the victims have an arrest history, and 93 percent of the suspects have an arrest history.”

That's a small consolation to the families of the victims and the people who live in the neighborhoods where the murders happen. Betty, who gave only her first name, lives on the block where Wednesday's south side Milwaukee murder took place.

“Crimes is always everywhere on the south side,” she said. “I think they should put like cameras in each block and have more cops, I guess, driving around.”

Milwaukee police have used cameras to deter shootings in some city taverns where several gun crimes have ocurred. But this week the city got funds from the state to expand the use of microphones to record the sound of gun shots in crime-prone neighborhoods. 

Chief Flynn says the ShotSpotter technology is already helping police solve a problem that has hampered investigations in the past: “The data produced by the ShotSpotter technology told us an alarming truth. In some of our neighborhoods -- the most gunfire-afflicted neighborhoods particularly -- only 14 percent of the shots-fired incidents were being called into 911.”

Technology like this is one way police are trying to reduce gun deaths. On the legislative front a bill designed to reduce the number of domestic violence gun deaths could get a vote before the end of the year. 

According to Tony Gibart of End Domestic Violence Wisconsin, a preliminary report for last year found guns were used in 19 domestic violence murders. He says the new law would require courts to verify that anyone with a domestic violence restraining order immediately surrender any guns they own. 

“We know that some counties are starting to do this, but most counties don't have any kind of active enforcement procedures in place,” Gibart said. “We do see, throughout the years, homicides that seemingly could have been prevented had there been more active enforcement.”

Gibart says that bill has not been scheduled for a vote yet.

Wisconsin Public Radio will continue to follow gun-related legislation throughout the year, and follow up with stories on these and other homicides as they occur and develop.

From: Wisconsin Public Radio.