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Angela Major 

Food from chef Tyler Salisbery, owner of The Black Sheep in Whitewater, is ready to be served at the RECAP dinner Wednesday at the Rock County Sheriff's Office in Janesville.


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Janesville man sent to prison for killing, again

MONROE

Janesville native Toby Kubler found his wife, Aimee, dead at the side of the road in 2002.

The 28-year-old had been jogging near their home in the Dane County town of Primrose when she was hit by a passing car.

Nathan L. Leopold of Janesville was convicted of homicide by negligent driving and hit-and-run involving death. He was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison.

Kubler participated in a restorative justice program in which he met Leopold, and Leopold asked for forgiveness.

Kubler forgave him, and Leopold agreed never to drive drunk again and always carry a picture of Aimee in his wallet to remind him to be careful when driving.

Then, on October 20, 2017, it happened again.

Anthony Wahl 

Nathan Leopold enters the courtroom for a sentencing hearing at the Green County Justice Center in Monroe on Wednesday. Leopold was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of extended supervision.

Leopold crossed the centerline on Highway 11 between Brodhead and Juda and crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by David P. Leck, 70, of Juda.

Leck died, and Leck’s granddaughter, Emily E. Withee of Brodhead, then 12, was injured.

“When I found out he killed another person, I felt responsible, and my mind flashed back,” Kubler said in a telephone interview this week from his home in Hawaii.

Kubler recalled evidence that suggested Leopold was drunk when he killed Aimee in 2002. He now regrets not pushing Dane County authorities to pursue drunken-driving charges and to take the matter to a jury.

For the 2017 death of Leck, Leopold pleaded no contest in May to homicide by driving with a restricted controlled substance in his blood, a felony, and causing injury by driving with a restricted controlled substance in his blood, a misdemeanor.

Leopold admitted to smoking synthetic marijuana and having two beers at a bar after work in Monroe before heading home to Janesville.

As part of a plea agreement, counts of homicide and causing injury by intoxicated driving were dismissed but included in the record for consideration at sentencing.

Green County Judge Thomas Vale on Wednesday sentenced Leopold to 15 years in prison—the maximum prison sentence for the felony—and five years of extended supervision.

Kubler and Leck’s family had asked for a maximum sentence.

Vale also gave Leopold five years of extended supervision after prison—five fewer years than District Attorney Craig Nolen requested.

Vale also sentenced Leopold to nine months on the misdemeanor but allowed him to serve that time at the same time as his prison sentence.

Leopold is already serving a sentence on a bail-jumping conviction. That sentence ends in October 2022, when his 15-year sentence for killing Leck begins. He will be released in 2037, when he is 65.

Anthony Wahl 

Hanna Withee, granddaughter of David Leck, cries as her statement is read to the court by a family member during a sentencing hearing for Nathan Leopold at the Green County Justice Center in Monroe on Wednesday.

Vale ruled after a lengthy hearing Wednesday, when Leck’s family talked tearfully about the man they lost. Family members recalled him as his grandchildren’s greatest cheerleader, who would not say goodbye to them without many hugs.

They called him generous and cheerful to a fault, their rock and the glue that held them all together.

They also expressed anger. Granddaughter Madalyn Leck, gasping for breath as she sobbed, called Leopold a monster.

“To say I am angry is an understatement,” said Leck’s daughter-in-law Kristine Leck, adding that when Leopold gets released, “You’ll probably ruin another family’s life.”

Leck’s daughter Teresa Withee said she cried herself to sleep for five months and has been in counseling ever since.

“I’m just thankful he got the maximum he could get,” Teresa Withee said after the hearing.

“Our main thing is stopping anyone else from having to go through this,” added Leck’s son Michael.

Leck’s daughter Kori Sagen said the grief is unimaginable. She recalled her father telling her the day he died that he had at least 17 more years to live, and that it was going to be a great day, something he said often.

Leck’s widow, Shirley Leck, said in a letter that while she has a place to live, she feels homeless without her husband.

Emily Withee described her terror as she screamed for help after the crash.

“Please help my grandpa,” she pleaded to a man who shielded her from seeing what had happened.

“Why couldn’t it have been me?” she said, sobbing.

District Attorney Craig Nolen argued that this is one of the few cases that a maximum sentence is appropriate, given the gravity of the offense and the previous death Leopold caused.

Defense attorney Steven Zaleski noted Leopold’s criminal record, which didn’t go beyond the two deaths and an intoxicated-driving conviction in 1995 and includes no violent offenses.

Leopold has been employed his entire life, is close to his family and was a lifelong resident of the Brodhead area. Judges are required to consider these “pro-social” aspects of his character, Zaleski noted.

Maximum sentences should be reserved for those with a long, violent criminal past, and Zaleski said Vale also had to consider that Leopold took responsibility for his crime by pleading no contest.

Anthony Wahl 

Nathan Leopold, right, listens as statements are given to the court about David Leck during a sentencing hearing at the Green County Justice Center in Monroe on Wednesday.

Zaleski said the level of marijuana in Leopold’s blood was far below the threshold for intoxication in marijuana-legal states Colorado and Washington, and his blood-alcohol level was 0.021, far below the legal limit.

But Vale noted Leopold was on probation, with rules saying he was not to drink or take drugs.

Leopold gave a short apology, saying he knows it doesn’t help, but he is sorry for the pain he caused.

Vale also considered a letter to the court written by Kubler.

“I did not see him as a monster. … I believed him with all my heart and never imagined he would ever drive dangerously or intoxicated again,” Kubler wrote.

“I still forgive Nathan for killing my wife, and my heart goes out to all those involved in the crime in question,” Kubler continued. “But … I can’t help but wonder if the death of my wife, Aimee, and now Mr. David Leck, could have been prevented if he would have been held responsible for the crimes he actually committed and not the lesser charges (he was convicted of in 2002).”

Kubler asked Vale to do everything he could to ensure Leopold can never kill anyone again.

“I don’t see any assurance of this happening unless he spends the rest of his life incarcerated,” Kubler wrote.

Kubler told The Gazette that because Leopold will not get a life sentence, “I just think I’ll get another email somewhere down the road and hear, ‘Guess what, he killed another person.’”

Meanwhile, Kubler’s mind often returns to the night Aimee died. He has since remarried, and he thinks of what happened to Aimee every time his wife leaves the house.

Therapy has helped, he said, but he feels panic every time he hears a siren when his wife is not with him.

Anthony Wahl 

Teresa Withee reacts as defense attorney Steven Zaleski asks the court for a less-than-maximum sentence during a sentencing hearing for Nathan Leopold at the Green County Justice Center in Monroe on Wednesday. Leopold admitted using synthetic marijuana Oct. 20, 2017, the day he crashed and killed 70-year-old David Leck, Withee’s father, and injured her then-12-year-old daughter.


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Frustrated Walworth County officials seek answers on future of treatment court

ELKHORN

After flying in national drug court experts to give a training and mediate a discussion, some Walworth County officials wanted to leave Wednesday knowing if drug treatment court will continue or not.

But there was no resolution after the daylong session, which at times became contentious as some officials sought specific answers from District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld, who said he might withdraw his support of the program.

The experts from New York and Oregon came as part of the National Drug Court Institute. After offering coaching on communication skills, they suggested meeting to go over specific tasks within an agreed-upon time.

In coming days and weeks, Wiedenfeld and the county’s four judges will meet during lunch to hammer out where the DA stands on a list of 16 concerns he detailed in late 2017.

From there, the parties are expected to work on a more explicit memorandum of understanding.

But some participants stressed they wanted Wednesday’s meeting to be about finding that resolution, not kicking the can farther down the road—especially with grant funding in question in the near future.

“We’re all beating around the bush here,” said Walworth County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell. “So I am extremely concerned about that because I think that we’re sacrificing people who need our help. That’s the most important thing … there are people whose lives are at risk.

“I cannot understand why we wasted a whole day here when we’re going to end up exactly in the same place we were—only maybe worse than we were before.”

She said the high-risk and high-need candidates for drug court, the ones who are most successful in these programs, are the ones not getting in.

Referrals to drug court have decreased over time, and the program is not at its grant-funded capacity of 25 participants.

The heart of the matter, which has been debated publicly through the county’s criminal justice coordinating committee over the last six months, is Wiedenfeld’s desire for more explicit criteria over who can and cannot enter drug court.

He has said he has safety concerns without such eligibility criteria.

Mackenzie Renner, who leads Walworth County’s assistant public defenders, said many people who are turned away from drug court end up with probation anyway, which features less-strict supervision than treatment court.

That means less safety for the community, she said.

Some of the county’s judges tried to confirm where Wiedenfeld stood on withdrawing his office from the program.

“If we sentence somebody (to drug court) over your objection, are you still going to pull out?” Judge David Reddy asked the DA.

“I would say that I would consider it,” Wiedenfeld responded.

“You know, what’s frustrating is you’re not answering the question,” the judge said. “That’s what’s frustrating.”

But Wiedenfeld went on to say his considerations are context specific, even as judges and others tried to nail down answers clarifying perceived objections to certain participants, such as those who make meth or commit crimes involving victims.

After hearing the DA respond indirectly to a different question from Clerk of Courts Kristina Secord, Reddy said it sounded like a “no.” Judge Daniel Johnson, who currently oversees drug court, said, “If it’s a ‘no,’ it’s a ‘no.’”

Wiedenfeld said his answers will be fact-driven—which to Johnson sounded like a “yes,” that the DA would be open to allowing drug-driven offenses into the program.

Wiedenfeld said not necessarily. He said saying “yes” or “no” now “isn’t the right way to go about it.”

Wednesday’s event was held at Adams Electric in Elkhorn. The morning consisted of training. At about noon, Mark Anthony Violante, a judge in Niagara Falls, New York, spoke to the group about who succeeds in drug court.

Violante said he has more often seen contention around drunken-driving treatment courts than drug courts, although the opposite is the case in Walworth County.

After lunch, Wiedenfeld met away from the group with the other expert at Wednesday’s meeting, John Haroldson, a DA in Oregon’s Benton County.

Reddy said Wiedenfeld should be in the room during the discussion and asked Violante why he was gone. The New York judge said Wiedenfeld was discussing concerns with Haroldson privately.

Upon their return about 90 minutes later, Haroldson said the two could talk about “prosecution-focused” matters.

At the meeting’s closing, Haroldson said he thought everyone wanted the best possible outcome, and everyone should not lose sight of that.

“You’re all real good people,” Violante said.

And yet frustration, urgency and a lack of clarity were themes Wednesday.

“We’ve been going around this for a year now,” Renner said. “So it’s very frustrating to not have answers today and say we need to come back to the drawing table when our court is dying because we don’t have these answers.”


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US to set up plan allowing prescription meds from Canada

WASHINGTON

The Trump administration said Wednesday it will create a way for Americans to legally and safely import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada for the first time, reversing years of refusals by health authorities amid a public outcry over high prices for life-sustaining medications.

The move is a step toward fulfilling a 2016 campaign promise by President Donald Trump. It weakens an import ban that has stood as a symbol of the political clout of the pharmaceutical industry.

But it’s unclear how soon consumers will see benefits because the plan has to go through time-consuming regulatory approval and later could face court challenges from drugmakers. And there’s no telling how Canada will react to becoming the drugstore for its much bigger neighbor, with potential consequences for policymakers and consumers there.

The U.S. drug industry is facing a crescendo of consumer complaints over prices, as well as legislation from both parties in Congress to rein in costs, not to mention proposals from the Democratic presidential contenders. Ahead of the 2020 election, Trump is feeling pressure to deliver on years of harsh rhetoric about pharmaceutical industry prices.

Making the announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the administration recognizes that prescription drug manufacturing and distribution is now international.

“The landscape and the opportunities for safe linkage between drug supply chains has changed,” Azar said. “That is part of why, for the first time in HHS’s history, we are open to importation. We want to see proposals from states, distributors and pharmacies that can help accomplish our shared goal of safe prescription drugs at lower prices.”

Stephen Ubl, president of the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America called the plan “far too dangerous” for American patients.

“There is no way to guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the country from outside the United States’ gold-standard supply chain,” Ubl said in a statement. “Drugs coming through Canada could have originated from anywhere in the world.”

Most patients take affordable generic drugs to manage such conditions as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. But polls show concern about the prices of breakthrough medications for intractable illnesses like cancer or hepatitis C, whose annual costs can run to $100,000 or much more. And long-available drugs like insulin have seen price increases that force some people with diabetes to ration their doses.

Azar, a former drug company executive, said U.S. patients will be able to import medications safely and effectively with oversight from the Food and Drug Administration. Azar used to be a skeptic of importation and was once quoted dismissing it as a gimmick.

One prong of the administration’s proposal would allow states, wholesalers and pharmacists to get FDA approval to import certain medications that are also available here. Trump had recently endorsed a new Florida law to allow importation.

Another part of the plan would allow drugmakers to seek approval for re-importation of their own drugs. This second provision would cover cutting-edge biologic drugs and mainstays like insulin. It could apply to drugs from other countries besides Canada.

Azar said complex regulations setting up the system could take “weeks and months.” He called on Congress to pass legislation that would lend its muscle to the effort, making it harder to overturn the policy in court.

“The FDA has the resources to do this,” said acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless. “The agency is interested in considering any reasonable proposal that maintains the bedrock of safety and efficacy for the American consumer.”

Importation has backers across the political spectrum.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the panel that oversees Medicare, is a longtime supporter. He and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have a bill to facilitate importation. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the health committee, welcomed the plan but said the key is whether importation can be done safely.

During Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, multiple candidates talked about the need to lower drug costs. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., noted the disparity in U.S. and Canadian prices.

“I took 15 people with diabetes from Detroit a few miles into Canada and we bought insulin for one-tenth the price being charged by the crooks who run the pharmaceutical industry in America today,” he said.

The leading drug industry trade group, known as PhRMA, is a powerhouse that generally gets its way with lawmakers. It spent $128 million on lobbying in 2017, according to its most recent tax filings. But pressure on the industry is rising across many fronts.

In the Senate, Trump is supporting Grassley’s bipartisan bill to cap medication costs for Medicare recipients and require drugmakers to pay rebates to the program if price hikes exceed inflation. Democrats in the House are pressing for a vote on a bill allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices on behalf of millions of seniors. Separately, the Trump administration is pursuing a regulation that would tie what Medicare pays for drugs administered in doctors’ offices to lower international prices.

Drug costs are lower in other advanced countries because governments take a leading role in setting prices. In the U.S., Medicare is not permitted to negotiate.

Some experts have been skeptical of allowing imports from Canada, partly from concerns about whether Canadian suppliers have the capacity to meet the demands of the much larger U.S. market.

Backers argue that the prospect of competition will pressure U.S. drugmakers to reduce prices.


Obituaries and death notices for Aug. 1, 2019

Debbie Haugan

Kenneth Vernon Krumm

Roger W. Luessenhop

Robert “Bob” McCann

Sundy B. McMurray

James D. Paquin

Eric “Porchy” Porter

Gerald “Jerry” Staller

George W. Strick