Friday, May 31, 2019

Oshkosh man who attacked four women near campus sentenced to more than 20 years in prison

Four women were assaulted by the same man just off the UW Oshkosh campus on Sept. 17, 2017.

By Miles Maguire
The local man accused of terrorizing four women early one morning near the UW Oshkosh campus has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison after pleading no contest.

But in a letter to the judge the man, Joshua T. Immel, says he misunderstood a plea agreement that he rejected and wants his punishment reduced. Court records also reveal that Immel, now 29, has suffered multiple head injuries and exhibited symptoms from a long list of mental health conditions.

Immel began his rampage around 2 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2017, according to court records. He entered the room of a 21-year-old woman who lived on Amherst Avenue and ordered her to take her pants off, court records show.

After she drove him off with screams and a four-letter word, Immel set upon the woman’s housemate, who was sleeping in another room. Immel pulled her dress up and started sucking on the side of her neck. The second woman, also 21, managed to maneuver Immel to the front door of the house and onto the porch, whereupon “she slammed and locked the door behind him,” according to a criminal affidavit.

Thirty minutes later, and just two blocks away, police came upon a third 21-year-old woman, who said a man later identified as Immel had followed her and grabbed her by the shirt before throwing her to the ground and getting on top of her. The woman, who reported a concussion from Immel’s attack, was rescued when two young men came upon the scene and pulled Immel away.

Around 5:30 that morning, police were summoned to a blue light emergency phone on Cherry Street, where they found a fourth woman, “sobbing, crying and holding her face,” the affidavit states. The 19-year-old had been pushed down to the ground behind a nearby dumpster, where Immel had been on top of her and in the process of unbuckling his belt when another young man arrived and broke up the assault.

Early last year Immel appeared headed for trial, but along the way he changed his plea. On May 14 he was pronounced guilty due to no contest on the eight charges against him, which included kidnapping, car theft, trespassing and two counts of sexual assault.

Judge Daniel J. Bissett sentenced Immel to 10 years in jail on the kidnapping charge with a consecutive eight years tacked on for second degree sexual assault, a charge that is brought when there is a threat of violence. The other charges carried a mix of concurrent and consecutive sentences that totaled almost 25 years in prison or jail.

A psychological evaluation included in the court file said Immel’s “current diagnoses include bipolar 2 disorder and borderline personality as well as severe alcohol use disorder and severe cannabis use disorder.”

His past traumas include getting hit by a drunk driver as well as “multiple head injuries and concussions that have involved loss of consciousness,” according to court records. His record includes getting jumped, a snowboarding accident and having his head slammed to the ground by police, court papers show.

Although he was not sexually assaulted himself, the evaluation said Immel “becomes preoccupied with having sexual relations” and has “difficulties relating in a proper manner to women.”

In a handwritten note to the judge Immel maintains that he turned himself into police and that he should get “credit for self-reporting my actions the night of 9-17-17.”

He said that he turned down a plea agreement that would have based his sentence on only some of the charges against him. “I thought it would be better to acknowledge for the whole event,” he wrote.

According to a note in the electronic court file, however, Judge Bissett does not intend to act on Immel’s request to reconsider the sentence.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Winnebago County's top prosecutor for violent crimes resigns, citing chronic low pay in Wisconsin system

Updated with new details, complete text of resignation letter.

By Miles Maguire

Scott A. Ceman, the deputy district attorney for Winnebago County and the lead prosecutor for violent crimes, has resigned his position, citing the chronic problem of low pay for public lawyers in the state's criminal justice system. 

"I can no longer justify staying in a job I love while my family goes without," Ceman said in an interview. Last year he earned $69,820, after 14 years in the district attorney's office, where he supervised eight other prosecutors. 

By contrast, Oshkosh patrol officers, who do not need to have a college degree, can make up to $71,000, according to the city's website.

In a letter to Gov. Tony Evers and Rep. Gordon Hintz, Ceman explained why he had tendered his resignation. "This is a profession I simply can no longer afford to be a part of."

Ceman is a veteran of the U.S. Army who grew up on a farm and spent seven years as an ironworker. "I appreciate first-hand the struggles of good, working-class people because I've been one my whole life," he wrote.

He said he recognized that many citizens do not have much sympathy for state prosecutors and public defenders.

"Admittedly, back when I was an ironworker, I could have cared less how much they made," Ceman wrote. "However, having prosecuted numerous intentional and reckless homicides and sexual assaults of adults and children, kidnappings, human trafficking and all sorts of other violent and serious crimes over the years, I can attest that when someone's loved one is charged or falls victim to these types of crimes, they suddenly care, as they should."

UW Oshkosh by the numbers: Campus opens its books on sexual assaults, enrollment, parking tickets, more

Photo by Patrick Flood. Copyright UW Oshkosh.
UW Oshkosh is apparently the first public university in the state to provide a detailed look at operations.

By Miles Maguire
Forty-four cases of sexual misconduct and 11 cases of discrimination or bias have been reported at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh so far this academic year.

This information is just one set of data points released as part of a university initiative to demonstrate transparency across a wide range of activities. This new effort has resulted in a Quarterly Finance and Administration Report that provides information on everything from how much tuition has been collected to how many campus parking tickets have been issued (and voided).

Other statistics cover such topics as the value of outside grants, work orders for repairs to campus facilities, the number of staff retirements, types of police incidents and unaudited revenues and expenses.  

“This is another important step forward in our efforts to modernize and become more transparent in university practices and finances,” said UW Oshkosh Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration James Fletcher in releasing the report May 15. “My understanding is that we are the first institution in the University of Wisconsin System to publish such a report.”

“This is a great move to improve transparency,” said Stephen P. Bentivenga, a biology professor who is president of the school’s Faculty Senate. “Faculty senators were very appreciative when Provost [John] Koker announced to us that financial statements would be made available.”

Like other schools in the UW System, Oshkosh has been struggling to deal with budget cuts, falling enrollment, reports of sexual misconduct by faculty and staff, and a campus climate that is viewed as hostile to minorities. University officials hope that by sharing more information they can show their commitment to addressing these issues and unify the campus community in implementing solutions.

UW Oshkosh is in the process of integrating with two-year UW System schools in Fond du Lac and Menasha, but the report appears to cover only the main campus.

The new report provides far more information than has traditionally been shared but does not provide a complete basis for evaluation. For example, the sexual misconduct and bias section does not include comparable figures from previous periods,  information about how the complaints turned out or how long it took to investigate them.

Here are some highlights from the third-quarter report:

  • For the first three months of the fiscal year, the university took in $213.4 million and spent $175.3 million. 
  • The spring enrollment was 9,184, compared to 9,736 in March 2018, a decline of 5.7 percent.
  • Total full-time employment was 1,3022, down 2.4 percent from 1,354 the year previous. 
  • The campus Sustainability Office has raised concerns about plans for the new dining hall operator to partner with Chick-fil-A, which has been criticized for funding groups that oppose gay rights.
  • Parking Services has been issuing fewer tickets over the last two years, with only 1,986 written in the third quarter of fiscal 2019, compared to 3,020 in the same period of 2017.
  • The campus police have sharply increased the number of safewalks and saferides they provide, from 76 in fiscal 2018 to 567 in fiscal 2019.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Oshkosh Corp. remains optimistic about JLTV future despite budget cut, some negative early reviews

Photo by Sgt. Quanesha Barnett/U.S. Army
This March 2019 photo shows two JLTVs going through during an after action review at Fort Stewart, Ga.

By Miles Maguire

Oshkosh Corp. officials remain optimistic about the future of the company’s Humvee-replacement vehicle in the face of budget cuts and some negative early reviews.

The Trump administration announced in March that the Army is cutting its 2020 order for the company’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, by 505 vehicles, a nearly 17 percent decline from previous projections.

Trump officials have given mixed signals about the long-range outlook for the program. As Oshkosh CEO Wilson R. Jones pointed out, “the Army has not reduced its acquisition objective,” which “is still 49,000 vehicles” over several years. He said next year’s drop in funding is just a matter of pushing purchases into future years. 

But Ryan D. McCarthy, Trump’s undersecretary of the Army, has signaled otherwise. In a story published by the official Army News Service, McCarthy was cited as saying that the service planned to cut $800 million from the program and take delivery of 1,900 fewer JLTVs.

"The JLTV is a new vehicle--more survivable than a Humvee, more maneuverable than a [mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle]," the news service quoted McCarthy as saying. "There's no doubt the Army needs it in the future, just not at the numbers of the original program of record when the requirements of a high-intensity land conflict are considered."

Oshkosh hailed its 2015 contract award as a “historic win” for the company, and the JLTV was widely described as the replacement for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee. The Humvee was criticized for its poor performance in protecting soldiers from roadside bombs in Iraq.

But based on McCarthy’s remarks it now appears that the military plans to maintain a roughly equal mix of Humvees and JLTVs. Last month the Army put in an order for $185 million worth of Humvees outfitted to serve as ambulances, just a few weeks after Oshkosh said it would start building an ambulance version of its light vehicle.

While the Army appears to be shrinking its projections for the JLTV, the Marines have other ideas. “The Marine Corps has raised their objective from 5,500 to 9,000” units, Jones told stock market analysts last month. He said the JLTV’s order backlog now stretches into 2021.

The company is “hearing good customer feedback,” Jones said.

"It's a top-notch vehicle compared to what we used to have," Sgt. Richard Saunders said in an article on the Army’s website. 

"I noticed a lot of positive differences between the Humvee and the JLTVs, like the turning radius, braking system and it being more high-tech,” added Spc. Kourtney Patton. “It allows us to be more capable in doing more operations." 

Oshkosh has also heard, however, some negative comments. The most recent were contained in a May report from the Government Accountability Office. JLTVs were found “not operationally suitable because of their high maintenance needs, low reliability, training and manual deficiencies, and safety shortcomings,” the GAO said. This criticism echoes an earlier report from the Army, which Oshkosh officials have said they are addressing. 

That Army report also raised the possibility that the JLTV, designed at a time of desert operations in the Middle East, may not be ideally suited for battlegrounds in Europe or Asia because of its size and the noise it makes. As the Army evaluators put it, “The JLTV has large visual and loud aural signature increasing detectability.”

Some of these issues are to be expected with any new weapons system, and the Humvee was also criticized when it was initially deployed. But another factor, facing all military contractors, is that the Defense Department is looking for savings across almost 100 weapons systems so that it can finance a modernization program. 

For now the Army has delayed giving Oshkosh the go-ahead to ramp up production to full speed, which had been expected late last year.

“We're optimistic about the full-rate production here in the next few months,” Jones said in late April.

“Really what delayed [the ramp-up] was the modifications that our customer decided to add, which are good mods. But as I mentioned, too, the fielding is going really well,” Jones said. “We're getting these out with the Marines and with the Army, and the feedback has been very positive.”

The JLTV issue is apparently a sensitive one. The company did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the United Auto Workers local that represents Oshkosh employees. Also nonresponsive were Rep. Glenn Grothman and Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican lawmakers in Washington who represent the Oshkosh area and the state, respectively.

Friday, May 17, 2019

University, foundation move forward on 'healing day' at Culver Family Welcome Center

From left, UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt, Culver Franchising System Chairman Craig Culver, UW Oshkosh Foundation Chairman Tim Mulloy and UW System President Ray Cross at renaming ceremony.  
UW Oshkosh renamed the campus alumni building as the "Culver Family Welcome Center" on Friday, marking another step toward closure of the legal dispute between the university and its fundraising arm, the UW Oshkosh Foundation.

Craig Culver, who graduated in 1973 and went on to start the 707-restaurant Culver's chain, called it a "healing day" for the university and the foundation. Culver obtained naming rights to the 40,000-square-foot building that overlooks the Fox River in exchange for a promised donation of $2 million.

The structure was built under the direction of the school's previous chancellor, Richard Wells, who is now facing civil and criminal charges for his use of the foundation to further university building projects, including the Culver Center. 

Culver credited his years at UW Oshkosh as leading him into the frozen custard business, saying he visited Leon's on Murdoch Avenue as often as he could to snack on vanilla cones.

He has been a big supporter of the school, sponsoring the Culver's Business Model Competition, contributing financially to the Sage Hall academic building and serving on the foundation board of directors. 

"It wasn't too long ago when I wondered whether or not we would be here today," said Tim Mulloy, the chairman of the UWO Foundation. "The foundation board was steadfast in its resolve in seeing that the right outcome was the end result."

The Culver Center is "now the property of the UW System and the university," Mulloy said. "That's where it belongs."

He went on to thank UWO Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and UW System President Ray Cross for their help in "getting us to this point."

Both Leavitt and Cross also delivered remarks. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Meet your new Oshkosh council member

The Oshkosh Common Council voted 4-2 to have local businessman William Miller fill the vacant seat on the body. In this video he provides some background information and responds to questions from council members.

The council went through multiple rounds of voting before approving Miller. Former Council Member Tom Pech Jr. received as many as three votes on earlier rounds.

But he was not part of the final vote, which came down to Miller and Winnebago County Health Department employee Lynnsey Erickson. 

Miller is a graduate of Oshkosh North High School and serves as president of Northern Telephone & Data Corp.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Oshkosh school district says it has cut its relationship with behavioral services company that got $209,000

Photo by Miles Maguire

The Oshkosh Area School District said it spent no funds at the home from which foster children were removed.
By Miles Maguire

The Oshkosh Area School District has stopped contracting with Macht Village Programs Inc., the De Pere company that operated a foster home on West 11th Avenue from which two children were removed after a police investigation of living conditions there.

The district paid almost $133,000 to Macht Village for educational services covering two foster children who have since been removed from the home, according to data released under a public records request.

The money, billed at a rate of about $300 a day, was used to cover times when the boys were deemed unable to attend an Oshkosh school and were instead sent to Macht Village’s treatment center in De Pere.

Students who went to Macht Village “were not ready to be all-day in a middle school or a high school,” said Linda S. Jones-Pierron, the district’s director of special education. “If they are injuring themselves or others, that’s usually when we look at placement” at an outside agency.

She said no district money was spent at the 11th Avenue home, which has been owned by persons or entities affiliated with Macht Village for the last decade, according to city land records.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Oshkosh turns its attention to future of Lakeshore Park

With the Oshkosh Corp. headquarters nearing completion, attention now turns to the rest of the old golf course.
If you are interested in what happens to the rest of the old Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course, you should make plans to attend the May 6 meeting of the Advisory Park Board.

That's when the city will begin the public phase of developing the Lakeshore Park Master Plan, focusing on the part of the old Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course that was not sold to Oshkosh Corp. 

The meeting will be in Room 404 of City Hall.

Below are the city's press release and a list of key dates in the planning process. 


Lakeshore Park Master Plan process begins next week
OSHKOSH, Wis. May 2, 2019 – The process to develop the Master Plan for Lakeshore Park will begin with a kickoff at the Advisory Park Board Meeting this Monday. The full schedule to create the Master Plan spans about 4 months, and will consist of public meetings of several boards and commissions, public visioning meetings, and other public input opportunities. It is anticipated that a Concept Plan will be presented to the Oshkosh Common Council in October.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Oshkosh foster parents plead not guilty

Winnebago County Sheriff's Department
Alan Small and Barbara Peterson, shown in booking photos, face upgraded charges in the case of one youth.
By Miles Maguire
The mother-and-son team of foster parents who stand accused of criminally neglecting three teenage Oshkosh boys pleaded not guilty May 2.

The son, 35-year-old Alan Small, was present in court but has moved to the Houston area, according to his attorney, Amber Gratz. She indicated that Small would contest the accusations against him by filing motions in the near future.

Small and his mother, 60-year-old Barbara Peterson, now face upgraded charges with respect to one of the youths. In the case of the child identified in court papers as EDP, both Peterson and Small are accused of child neglect that led to emotional damage.

This charge is a Class G felony that could result in a fine of up to $25,000 and a 10-year prison term. The other child neglect charges, which do not specify a harm that occurred, are Class H felonies, carrying fines of up to $10,000 and terms of up to six years.

Penny Hummel, the adoptive mother of EDP, said in court papers that she was concerned that her son would not easily recover from his experiences at the Oshkosh foster home.

“These kids were put there because they needed help, and it was supposed to be a safe place,” she said. “Now they will need a long time of counseling to get over being in this foster home, if they can get over it.”

She said her son has lost weight, refused to take medications and has trouble defecating.

Small and Peterson were charged Feb. 27 with felony child neglect after police were told of living conditions that included a lack of access to the bathroom and alarms on bedroom doors.

The initial police report said the boys in the house were forced to use “toilet buckets” in their rooms and then dump the contents in the yard. But Small has argued that the boys were using portable commodes and has entered a picture of one in the court file as evidence.

Last month Small said he had been offered a job in child care and asked Judge Daniel J. Bissett to amend his bond conditions. But the state objected, and the judge left in place the restrictions, which prohibit the defendants from working or volunteering in a care facility.

Small was told to file any motions in the case within 20 days and to return to court June 6 for further proceedings.

Peterson is scheduled to return to court July 3 for a plea/sentencing hearing.