The La Crosse Tribune from La Crosse, Wisconsin on March 4, 1997 · 9
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The La Crosse Tribune from La Crosse, Wisconsin · 9

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La Crosse, Wisconsin
Issue Date:
Tuesday, March 4, 1997
Page:
9
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La Crosse Tribune Wisconsin and Minnesota Tuesday, March 4, 1997 Attorney: Maim charged ion Fr5 MeCy theft was tiryiimg t eleaim up By KEVIN MURPHY Special to the Tribune MADISON A Hudson, Wis., man charged with initiating a $13 million heist of military equipment from Fort McCoy was merely trying to remove artillery-damaged vehicles that were causing environmental problems at the Monroe County base, his attorney told jurors Monday in federal court. Civilian employees were under orders to clean up firing ranges at the 65,000-acre base in September 1994 when Leo A. Piatz, Jr., 37, offered to remove leaking vehicles used in target practice if he could keep them for parts, said attorney Steven Pihlaja, as Piatzs two-week trial for theft of government property and bribery got underway. Range Safety Officer Donald Crandall, of Sparta, had pulled equipment back 300 feet from the Hometown Report: Parent chaperons need to walk the talk in alcohol use By GAYDA HOLLNAGEL Of the Tribune staff No drinking, no smoking, no swearing, no gambling and no illegal drugs. Those are the nos on a list of requirements presented Monday night for parents or other adults serving as chaperones for La Crosse School District trips or events. The list, suggested by a districtwide parents committee and presented to school board members Monday night, requires adult chaperones to behave responsibly, said Tom Thompson, chairperson of the parent advisory group. He said the requirements reflect a belief by the parent group that it is time for chaperones and other adults to walk the talk and serve as j responsible role models for i students. Under the proposal, chaperones would be asked to sign a ' statement agreeing to the i restrictions, he said. A similar list was presented as i guidelines for spectator behavior. The proposal for chaperones prohibits all alcohol or illegal drug use at all times, but does allow for smoking when no ! students are present. S The spectator guidelines would i allow moderate use of alcohol in j appropriate off-school settings, such as the Green Bay Packer game last fall where Logan and : Central High band members : performed during halftime. Several parents drove their own ! vehicles to Green Bay and j attended the performance as ! spectators. All use of alcohol, tobacco and ; illegal drugs already is banned on school property, as is gambling. Parent committee members ' Maureen Freedland and Debbie Gould spearheaded the drafting of the proposals. The women said : they started out proposing to ban all alcohol and tobacco use by chaperones and spectators, but made compromises to accommodate the lifestyles and beliefs of others. Gould said the idea was not to ' be overbearing in restricting the behaviors of other people. We wanted to tweak their consciences, she said. The proposals, which were presented as information Monday night, will return to the school board as policy recommendations. Board members were generally supportive of the plans, although : board member Julie Vollmer questioned whether the proposals should be adopted as official policies. Theres absolutely no way we can regulate this or enforce it, she said. La Crosse River but had no budget to rid the firing ranges of the old equipment, Pihlaja said. Piatz, a military surplus dealer, brought in men and equipment to haul away the damaged hulks among the unexploded shells on the range. Although Piatz also received some operable armored personnel carriers for his efforts, the value of the vehicles amounted to no more than what he earned, Pihlaja said. What he got was pretty fair value for the work that was done that the government would admit is pretty dangerous, Pihlaja said. A federal prosecutor told jurors that Piatz paid the bribe and then ask to haul off whatever equipment he thought he could sell to collectors whether it was stripped of military equipment or not. Some government reports indicate Piatz made $60,000 from selling the equipment. Collectors pay high prices for Chamber members honor doctor, others at annual dinner By MAXENE RENNER Of the Tribune staff Members of the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce gathered Monday evening at the La Crosse Center to honor their own and share a few laughs with comic Damian Mason, a Bill Clinton impersonator, at the chambers 129th annual meeting and recognition dinner. Dr. Kermit Newcomer, past president of the Gundersen Clinic, was presented the Chairpersons Community Service Award for his contributions to the community, state and nation. Newcomer served 28 years as physician to the Central High School football team and was a member of the Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund Drug convict claims in court hes before sentence is up due parole By BILL WHITE Of the Tribune staff A Minneapolis man who was sent to prison in 1992 for 16 years for his part in an $11,000 cocaine deal in La Crosse wants his sentence reduced because a harder-line anti-drug philosophy has been adopted in the Wisconsin Legislature. John Schmidt, 40, said in a petition filed in La Crosse County Circuit Court Monday that Judge Dennis Montabon, who sentenced Schmidt, expected the man would be eligible for parole after one-fourth of his prison time was completed, according to Wisconsin law. Mandatory release is after two-thirds of the sentence is served. The trial court was not able at the time of sentencing to consider changes in the law relevant to sentencing which have taken place since the time of sentencing, Schmidt said. New district By REID MAGNEY Of the Tribune staff Many Town of Shelby residents with failing septic systems will soon be able to get cheaper prices on replacements, plus long-term, low-interest financing. The towns board of supervisors voted unanimously Monday to create a utility district, which will give residents collective buying and borrowing power. The board old equipment and Piatz had customers all over the country, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Bach. Between late 1994 and mid 1995, Piatz would haul off 150 vehicles, including a self-propelled howitzer, a Sheridan tank, and two runway-clearing snow blower trucks that would later sell for $53,000 each, Bach said. Piatz knew of the red tape involved in acquiring military vehicles and had Crandall devise some bogus documents authorizing release of the vehicles to him, Bach said. Crandall drafted some papers knowing he lacked authority to release the equipment Piatz wanted, Bach said. Crandall, who pleaded guilty last month to converting government property for his own use, is expected to testify today against Piatz. After authorities were tipped in Board, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine Health Policy Advisory Board and the Salvation Army Board of Advisers. He has been active on health care policy issues with the American Medical Association and the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. Newcomer told the nearly 600 chamber members he was touched by the honor, but did not know what he had done to deserve it. I was raised in a era where we were expected to return to the community the good that the community has given us, he said. Thank you for allowing me and Barbara (his wife) to be your servants. The Volunteer of the Year Award went to La Crosse businesswoman Edie Woods, He cited an affidavit issued by John Husz, chairman of the Wisconsin Parole Commission, that because of action by the Joint Legislative Finance Committee no one convicted of a drug offense will be eligible for an early release grant by the Parole Commission. As a result, discretionary parole after one-fourth of the sentence is completed is no longer available to prisoners, Schmidt said. Schmidt said District Attorney Scott Home "informally told Schmidt's family that he probably would not serve more than five years before being paroled. But that would be impossible under the parole commissions current procedures aimed at drug offenders. Schmidt asked Montabon to reduce the sentence to seven years so the mandatory release date would be this year. Horne said the issue of whether the Legislatures provides more action came after a public hearing attended by about 60 people, many of whom supported creating the district. Nobody voiced an objection. The districts No. 1 priority is (septic) system replacement, said town chairman Jeffrey Brudos. The district also may help educate residents about septic systems, and could even contract for pumping services. The district doesnt include the entire town, but 275 to 300 property owners, all of whom received notices in the mail. The Military hardware sits in a locked up yard on Oct. 3, 1996, in Fort McCoy, Wis., where the items were being kept during the criminal investigation in connection with the theft of $13 million of military equipment. 1995 to Piatzs activities, they sent undercover FBI and Defense Department agents to buy equipment from Piatz. Piatz allegedly stole the military and commercial equipment from the base, Bach said. Using phone taps, hidden cameras and other surveillance techniques, the president of the Edie Woods Co., an advertising promotions company. Shes just involved in everything she goes to everything, said Connie Knutson, the chambers director of marketing. She co-chaired our membership drive (in 1996) and that was so successful, we had twice as many new memberships as in the past. Kirk Rodman, a retired J.C. Penney Co. executive, was presented the Chamber Leadership Award for his commitment and enthusiasm in promoting the mission of the chamber. Outgoing president John Katrana, chief executive officer of Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, was presented with the Past Presidents plaque for his service to the chamber. Finance Committee can control the Parole Commission, which is an office of the Executive Branch, is being debated and must be resolved. He said he expected other policy changes next fall, although he was not specific. I cant envision Mr. Schmidt being actually paroled, Horne said. Montabon declined to make a decision Monday. He said he would write to Husz and ask for a clarification of the affidavit before ruling on Schmidt's request. Schmidt was convicted of providing the money to a Rochester man to pay for about 10 ounces of cocaine from an informant working with La Crosse police and Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation agents in a room at the Holiday Inn, 529 Park Plaza Drive, in June 1992. Schmidt was arrested after the transaction as he sat in a car outside the motel. septic options area includes property on either side of U.S. Hwy. 14, and along county Hwy. MM. Brudos said the town created the utility district in part to help residents who dont want to annex to the city of La Crosse. If a town residents septic system fails, he or she can replace the old system at a cost of several thousand dollars, or annex to the city of La Crosse to get city utility services also at a cost of several thousand dollars. The district will make replacement less costly. agents gathered enough evidence to get search warrants in April 1995 of a surplus military business in Michigan where an armored personnel carrier from Fort McCoy was recovered. The government said all the equipment was returned to Fort McCoy. Five men in addition to Piatz WISCONSIN BRIEFS The Associated Press Mark Neumann to explore U.S. Senate bid MADISON U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, exploring a bid for U.S. Senate, said Monday he plans to make his final decision later this year, in plenty of time for another GOP candidate to prepare a campaign for his House seat if necessary. Neumann, a Republican from Janesville, announced he has formed a committee to explore the possibility of seeking the seat held by Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold. Feingold, from Middleton, won his first six-year term in 1992 by ousting incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Kasten. Feingold has said he has not yet decided whether to seek re-election. Neumann said Feingolds vote for a balanced budget amendment would be a factor in his decision on whether or not to seek the Senate seat. Sen. Adefman among finalists for judgeship MILWAUKEE A veteran state senator and a Circuit Court judge who was a finalist for a federal judgeship in 1995 are among five remaining candidates for another Milwaukee federal judgeship. U.S. Sens. Russell Feingold and Herbert Kohl said the remaining candidates include state Sen. Lynn Adelman, D-Town of Waterford; Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Patricia McMahon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia J. Gorence, former U.S. Attorney Joan Kessler and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael Skwierawski. They would succeed U.S. District Judge Thomas Curran, who retired Jan. 1. MINNESOTA BRIEFS The Associated Press Review of HUD housing troubles continues WHITE EARTH The federal Inspector Generals office is planning a more extensive review of reported housing abuses on the White Earth Indian Reservation, officials said Monday. The review follows recent reports by the Seattle Times on Indian housing abuses, including a story Sunday that convicted embezzler and former tribal chairman Darrell "Chip Wadena put friends and relatives in the best houses built by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Were expecting the Inspector Generals office from HUD to come back, said Jim Jackson, co-chairman of the White Earth Housing Authority board. They promised us theyd come back for a more thorough investigation. Jackson said investigators were on the northwestern Minnesota reservation for about two weeks last month. 3M gets approval for warts treatment MAPLEWOOD 3M Pharmaceuticals has received approval to sell Aldara, its new cream for treating genital warts, a common sexually transmitted disease. 3M Pharmaceuticals, a division of Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., said Monday the self-administered prescription cream is the first new therapeutic approach to genital warts in five years. Genital warts is a highly contagious, sexually transmitted disease that infects about 4 million Americans and is growing by about 750,000 cases a year, 3M said. Although there is no cure for the disease, treatment can alleviate physical symptoms. Authorities reviewing case of Princes baby MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Authorities said Monday they are reviewing the case of the infant who died a week after he was bom to pop singer Prince and his wife last fall. Police and the county attorneys office said they are helping in the inquiry but referred questions to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. In a statement, that office said it will not release any information until the review is completed, probably in several weeks. Official filings have been just as mysterious. A birth certificate said that a boy was born to Mayte Garcia-Nelson Princes wife on Oct. 16, but said the mother refused information about the father. It lists the childs cause of death to be from complications caused by Pfieffers syndrome Type 2, a deadly and rare skull deformity. Republicans want complaints checked ST. PAUL Republicans said Monday theyve asked five county prosecutors to look into their complaints about education ads the House DFL caucus ran during the fall campaigns. The ads accused Republicans of cutting education. In reality, the DFL-controlled Legislature had agreed to the plan to make the cuts, but the plan never went through. Letters requesting action were sent to prosecutors in Carver, Kandiyohi, Renville, Wilkins and Hennepin counties. AP photo and Crandall were indicted in connection with buying or selling military equipment stolen from Fort McCoy. They face trial in June on conspiracy to convert government property and related charges. Piatz faces a maximum of 110 years in prison if convicted on all 11 counts pending against him.

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