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Rock, Janesville law enforcement have no plans to arrest missing senator

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Ted Sullivan
March 5, 2011
— Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen would not be detained if he returned home to Janesville unless a judge signed a warrant for his arrest, local law enforcement officials said Friday.

Cullen and 13 other missing Democrats were found in contempt of the Senate on Thursday, allowing the chamber’s sergeant at arms to use police force to detain them if necessary.


“Unless he has a valid arrest warrant, we’re not going to take anyone into custody for a violation of Senate rules,” Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden said. “Our position is that this is a matter between the majority Senate and the minority Senate, and they need to resolve it through house rules.”


Cullen, a Janesville Township resident, and other Democrats fled to Illinois to avoid voting on a union rights bill. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.


Cullen said in a phone interview Friday that he isn’t worried about getting arrested if he comes home. He said the order is another way for Senate Republicans to apply pressure on Democrats.


“You can’t get arrested unless you commit a crime,” Cullen said. “I have not committed a crime.”


He said he would resist if anyone tried to detain him. He said anyone on his property trying to detain him could be arrested for trespassing or disorderly conduct.


He added that Wisconsin State Patrol has already been to his house twice.


“It’s just all a show,” Cullen said. “There isn’t the slightest way they can detain me and force me to go back to Madison. You have to commit a crime to be arrested, and this, by everybody’s standing, is not a crime.”


Spoden said Cullen hasn’t violated state statutes that could result in his arrest. He said no one in Madison has given him an arrest warrant or asked for help detaining Cullen based on the Senate’s order.


“If they come and request us to go to Tim Cullen’s house to take him into custody, my response would be, ‘If we do not have a valid arrest warrant signed by a judge, then we won’t take him into custody on a violation of Senate rules,’” Spoden said.


Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said his department also wouldn’t make any effort to detain Cullen if he is seen in the city.


“I have told our officers if there is an arrest warrant issued for Sen. Cullen, we would take him into custody based upon probable cause to do so,” Moore said. “He has violated no crime or no law in the city of Janesville.”


A warrant or order to detain Cullen also hasn’t been given to the police department, Moore said.


After the contempt order was signed, the Senate Democrats said they would stay in Illinois and not return. They said they hadn’t done anything illegal and couldn’t be arrested.


An attorney for the Senate Republicans said the state constitution gives them authority to act to compel attendance under its rules.


It is unclear whether the sergeant at arms can issue an arrest warrant for the missing senators unless they commit crimes, Spoden said


“The way this is written, the Senate and only the Senate may act to enforce the duty of attendance,” Spoden said.


The Gazette could not reach anyone at the State Patrol or the Senate Chief Clerk’s Office to comment on whether paperwork has been filed to detain Democratic Senators.



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