A1 A1
Anthony Wahl 

Janesville Parker’s competes against Milton’s Wednesday in Milton.

Anthony Wahl 

The Wildwood Movies 16 in Janesville is one step closer to an approved liquor license after a positive recommendation was given by the Alcohol License Advisory Committee to the Janesville City Council.

US, Iran step back from the brink; region still on edge


The U.S. and Iran stepped back from the brink of possible war Wednesday as President Donald Trump signaled he would not retaliate militarily for Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. No one was harmed in the strikes, but U.S. forces in the region remained on high alert.

Speaking from the White House, Trump seemed intent on de-escalating the crisis, which spiraled after he authorized the targeted killing last week of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded overnight with its most direct assault on the U.S. since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, firing more than a dozen missiles at two installations in Iraq. The Pentagon said Wednesday that it believed Iran fired with the intent to kill.

Even so, Trump’s takeaway was that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”

Despite such conciliatory talk, the region remained on edge, and American troops, including a quick-reaction force dispatched over the weekend, were on high alert. Last week, an Iranian-backed militia besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Tehran’s proxies in the region remain able to carry out attacks such as the one Dec. 27 that killed a U.S. contractor and set off the most recent round of hostilities.

Hours after Trump spoke, an ‘incoming’ siren went off in Baghdad’s Green Zone after what seemed to be small rockets “impacted” the diplomatic area, a Western official said. There were no reports of casualties.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that it was “perhaps too early to tell” if Iran will be satisfied that the missile strikes were sufficient to avenge the Soleimani killing.

“We should have some expectation,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper added in a Wednesday briefing, “that Shiite militia groups, either directed or not directed by Iran, will continue in some way, shape or form to try and undermine our presence there,” either politically or militarily.

There is no obvious path to diplomatic engagement as Trump pledged to add to his “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions. He said the new, unspecified sanctions would remain in place “until Iran changes its behavior.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the overnight strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran’s response.

“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

Trump, facing perhaps the biggest test of his presidency, credited the minimized damage to an early warning system “that worked very well” and said Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.

The strikes had pushed Tehran and Washington perilously close to all-out conflict and left the world waiting to see whether the American president would respond with more military force. Trump, in his nine-minute, televised address, spoke of a robust U.S. military with missiles that are “big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast.” But then he added: “We do not want to use it.”

Iran for days had been promising to respond forcefully to Soleimani’s killing, but its limited strike on two bases appeared to signal that it, too, was uninterested in a wider clash with the U.S. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the country had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.”

Trump, who is facing re-election in November, campaigned for president on a promise to extract the United States from “endless wars.”

On Wednesday, he said the United States was “ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” That marked a sharp change in tone from his warning a day earlier that “if Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly.”

Members of Congress were briefed on the Iran situation Wednesday afternoon in closed-door sessions on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and some Republicans expressed dissatisfaction with the administration’s justifications for the drone strike on Soleimani.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said it was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.” {span class=”print_trim”}He said it was “distressing” that officials suggested it would only embolden Iran if lawmakers debated the merits of further military action. He and Sen. Rand Paul announced their support of a largely symbolic war powers resolution to limit Trump’s military action regarding Iran.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after the briefing that the House would vote today on a war powers resolution of its own.

Trump opened his remarks at the White House by reiterating his promise that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” Iran had announced in the wake of Soleimani’s killing that it would no longer comply with any of the limits on uranium enrichment in the 2015 nuclear deal crafted to keep it from building a nuclear device.

The president, who had earlier pulled the U.S. out of the deal, seized on the moment of calm to call for negotiations toward a new agreement that would do more to limit Iran’s ballistic missile programs and constrain regional proxy campaigns like those led by Soleimani.

Trump also announced he would ask NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.” While he has frequently criticized NATO as obsolete and has encouraged participants to increase their military spending, Trump has tried to push the military alliance to refocus its efforts on modern threats.

Like the U.S. troops in the region, NATO forces have temporarily halted their training of Iraqi forces and their work to combat the Islamic State.

Soleimani’s death last week in an American drone strike in Baghdad prompted angry calls for vengeance and drew massive crowds of Iranians to the streets to mourn him. Khamenei himself wept at the funeral in a sign of his bond with the commander.

Milley and Esper told reporters that a total of 16 missiles were fired from three locations in Iran. Eleven hit the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province and one targeted a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The missiles were described as likely short-range with 1,000- to 2,000-pound warheads. Four failed to detonate, they said.

Milley added that the Pentagon believes that Iran fired the missiles with the intent “to kill personnel.” He praised early warning systems, which detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, providing U.S. and coalition forces adequate time to take shelter at both bases. He described the damage to tents, parking lots and a helicopter, among other things, as “nothing major.”

Officials also said that the U.S. was aware of preparations for the attack. It’s unclear if any intelligence identified specific targets or was more general.

Ain al-Asad was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and it later was used by American troops in the fight against the Islamic State group. It houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces. Trump visited it in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. Vice President Mike Pence visited both Ain al-Asad and Irbil in November.

Trump spoke of new sanctions on Iran, but it was not immediately clear what those would be. The primary agencies involved in implementing such penalties—the departments of Commerce, State and Treasury—do not preview those actions to prevent evasion.

Since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, the administration had already imposed harsh sanctions on nearly every significant portion of Iran’s economic, energy, shipping and military sectors.

Wednesday’s efort to deescalate the conflict came after world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, appealed for restraint.

The fallout for Trump’s order to kill Soleimani had been swift.

Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, though Trump said they would not be leaving.

Trump and top national security officials have justified the Soleimani drone strike with general statements about the threat posed by the general, who commanded proxy forces outside Iran and was responsible for the deaths of American troops in Iraq.

Man who said he grew pot to get off painkillers pleads guilty, is sentenced


A town of Avon man who pleaded guilty to growing marijuana said he did it to replace the OxyContin and morphine he was prescribed after traumatic injuries.

Robert G. Christianson, 57, told a Rock County Court judge Tuesday that he crushed his left heel in 1999 and was prescribed opioid painkillers.

Then he broke his neck in 2004, and in 2013, he crushed his right heel and two vertebrae, he said.

He was on maximum doses of the opioids for 10 years, he said, “And I would rather be on the marijuana than be on that damned pain medicine.”

His wife also used the marijuana after getting cancer in 2013. She also didn’t like the pain meds, he said.

“I know it wasn’t right. It wasn’t legal,” he said.

“I understand all that. I can be empathetic,” Judge John Wood said. “It still doesn’t justify the behavior. It’s still illegal.”

Deputies raided Christianson’s home at 14001 W. Highway 81, Brodhead, in October 2018 and reported finding about 10 pounds of marijuana and evidence of a basement grow room, according to the criminal complaint.

Christianson had only one prior conviction, for marijuana possession in 1989, Assistant District Attorney Mary Bricco said.

Christianson pleaded guilty Wednesday to manufacturing THC and a second-offense intoxicated driving charge. He was sentenced to four years of probation with six months in jail, a 16-month driver license revocation and ignition interlock device requirement, and a $400 fine and court costs.

Wood also ordered drug/alcohol treatment. The judge allowed for work release, and Christianson will apply to serve his jail time at home on a monitoring bracelet.

Charges of possession with intent to deliver THC and running a drug house were dismissed.

Deputies found 17 firearms in the house, and Christianson is now required to get rid of them because of the felony conviction. They will go to a relative, defense attorney Jack Hoag said.

Christianson said after the hearing that he was upset with the plea agreement, a take-it-or-leave-it offer he had to accept that day or it would be taken off the table.

Christianson said he stopped using pain pills in 2014 and has used only marijuana to deal with the pain since.

The marijuana also helped him deal with opioid withdrawal symptoms, he said.

“Them pills were killing me,” he said. “I didn’t like the way they make me feel. Then you get dependent, and if you didn’t have them, you got sick,” he said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana appears to help most with muscle spasms, chronic pain and nausea.

“I hope you find a way to deal with all those health issues in a legal fashion,” Wood said to Christianson.

Christianson said he is no longer using marijuana.

top story
Janesville committee backs liquor license for Wildwood Movies 16, with conditions


Wildwood Movies 16 took a step closer to getting a liquor license Wednesday as the Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee forwarded a positive recommendation to the city council.

However, that recommendation came with conditions that could be removed in the future.

The positive recommendation was approved by a 4-0 vote with committee members Mark Bumpus and Ray Spade absent. The city council will decide whether to give final approval at an upcoming meeting.

Most of the conditions the committee required came from rules the movie theater’s manager, Sarah Lehr, provided to the committee.

Lehr proposed that alcohol be served in a cocktail lounge that would replace the existing arcade and that patrons be allowed to consume it in certain auditoriums.

The committee added a condition that alcohol consumption be restricted to the six auditoriums on the side of the theater nearest the lounge.

Other recommended conditions include:

  • Limiting alcohol-related advertising to eligible auditoriums that are showing R-rated movies.
  • Serving alcohol in designated cups that glow in the dark to show staff where alcohol is being consumed.
  • Restricting alcohol sales to 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Mandating the scanning of IDs at the lounge entrance.
  • Clearly identifying which auditoriums allow alcohol and which do not.

Lehr also proposed these rules:

  • Patrons must be 21 years old to enter the cocktail lounge and must show ID at the door and when buying alcohol.
  • Customers may buy only one drink at a time.
  • Wildwood Movies 16 must install additional security cameras.

Erin Davis, director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, was the only person to speak during a public hearing.

Davis said her organization is concerned about underage alcohol consumption and intoxicated driving. She recommended the theater serve only beer and wine, mandate that servers stay sober and limit alcohol advertising.

Committee Chairman Barry Badertscher commended Lehr for being thorough, and other members agreed that she was one of the best prepared applicants they had seen.

However, Badertscher expressed concern about introducing alcohol at a movie theater frequented by minors.

He said he has heard from residents that the theater is run-down, dirty and has broken seats. He said some believe Wildwood can’t be trusted with an alcohol license based on the theater’s condition.

Lehr replied that she has several maintenance projects in the works.

She said the company that sold seats to Wildwood declared bankruptcy before the theater could get its seats repaired. Wildwood is working to find a new seat vendor, Lehr said.

Committee member Kevin Riley said he had fewer concerns about Wildwood receiving a liquor license after seeing Lehr’s plans.

He suggested adding conditions to the license because serving alcohol in a movie theater is new to Janesville.

The closest theaters that sell alcohol are the Geneva Theater and Emagine Geneva Lakes, both in Lake Geneva, about 30 miles from Janesville.

The Madison and Milwaukee areas also have a handful of movie theaters that serve alcohol.

The village board in Machesney Park, Illinois, about 25 miles from Janesville, recently decided to allow movie theaters to apply for liquor licenses and is awaiting a license application from AMC Theaters.

Lehr said she hopes alcohol sales will keep the Janesville theater competitive, especially because the new owners of Beloit’s theater plan to make updates.

Lehr said she hopes the theater can start selling alcohol as soon as possible if the license is granted. The start date depends on the construction timetable for the lounge, she said.