Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 20:11
Judge finds probable cause in case against actor charged in Port bar stabbing
Dustin Diamond’s lawyer made an issue Monday of the fact police know of no one who saw the actor known for his role as Screech in the 1990s TV show “Saved by the Bell” stab a 24-year-old man during a Christmas night bar fight at Grand Avenue Saloon in Port Washington, but Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy wasn’t buying it.
Malloy ruled during a preliminary hearing that there is probable cause to support the criminal charges against Diamond, 37, of Port Washington— one felony count of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and misdemeanor counts of carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct-use of a dangerous weapon. The judge ordered Diamond to stand trial.
“Is there a single witness, a single piece of video, a single photo showing (Diamond) lunging out, touching anyone with a weapon?” Diamond’s attorney, Thomas Alberti, asked Port Washington police officer Ryan Hurda, who investigated the bar fight.
“No. Nothing definitive,” Hurda testified.
But Malloy put the pieces together.
A bartender saw Diamond with a knife and, in fact, Diamond admitted to police that he had a knife and brandished it at the bar.
In addition, Diamond was seen scuffling with Port Washington resident Casey Smet, who suffered a knife wound to the right side of his chest near his armpit, Hurda said.
“It didn’t happen by itself,” Malloy said.
Hurda, who was called to the bar around 11:15 p.m., testified that by the time he arrived Diamond, his 27-year-old fiance Amanda Schutz and Smet were gone.
He said bartender Mark Mueller told him he saw Diamond holding a knife and told him to put it down. Diamond refused and eventually left the bar with Schutz.
Security video from the tavern shows Schutz get up from the bar where she and Diamond were seated, walk over to a group of people and confront a woman, Hurda said.
Schutz, who was apparently upset that the woman was taking photos of her and Diamond, told police she shoved the woman, who retaliated by punching her, and a scuffle ensued, according to the criminal complaint.
When Diamond attempted to intervene, he was pushed “forcefully” by Smet, Hurda said.
Smet’s brother Craig said he pulled his brother away from Diamond when he heard the “snap of a knife,” Hurda said.
“The fight is pretty much over by that point,” the officer testified. “That’s when Mark Mueller observes the knife in Dustin Diamond’s hand.”
Smet said he was attempting to apologize to Diamond for an earlier confrontation between his girlfriend and Schutz when Diamond came toward him. Smet said he pushed Diamond, then his brother pulled him away, Hurda said.
Smet said Diamond swung at him but he didn’t realize Diamond had a knife or that he had been stabbed until later. Smet was eventually treated by members of an ambulance crew at his house.
“There was a fair amount of blood on his (Smet’s) sweater and white T-shirt,” Hurda said.
Diamond told police that he brandished his knife “to deter the individuals who he believed were endangering this fiance, Amanda Schutz,” and when he was pushed by Smet, he made a “swooping movement with his arm,” Hurda said.
According to the criminal complaint, Diamond said he did not intentionally stab Smet but chaos broke out, people were grabbing him and he swung his arms to break free.
During his cross examination of Hurda, who was the only witness to testify during the preliminary hearing, Alberti took issue with the initial description of Diamond’s knife as a switchblade.
Hurda said it was not a switchblade but rather a folding knife “opened by a slight push of the blade.”
After binding Diamond over for trial, Malloy disclosed that a witness in the case, Mueller, is the brother-in-law of Ozaukee County Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller and the ex-husband of Deputy Clerk of Courts Connie Mueller. But, the judge said, that does not constitute a conflict of interest for him and he does not intend to recuse himself from the case.
Alberti agreed, but said he would discuss the matter with his client.
If convicted of the felony endangering charge, Diamond could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and five years of extended supervision. He is free on $10,000 bail.
Diamond is expected to enter a plea to the charges on Thursday, Jan. 22.
Schutz is charged with one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct in connection with the bar fight and is scheduled to make her initial court appearance on Wednesday, Jan. 14.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 20:16
Residents will ‘ratchet up’ petition drive in effort to persuade Port council not to sell lakefront parking lot
Residents who hope to persuade the Port Washington Common Council not to sell a city-owned lakefront parking lot for development plan to step up their petition drive next week.
Pat Wilborn, who is organizing the drive, said the group decided to take a break during the holidays but will “ratchet it back up next week.”
“During the holidays people aren’t thinking about this,” Wilborn said. “Once we get over the holidays, we’re going to start up in earnest.”
The group will publish the petition in next week’s edition of Ozaukee Press for people to sign and submit, he said.
“What we need is something that will get the petition outside the downtown district. That is the objective here,” Wilborn said, noting the petition is available to residents at a number of restaurants and shops downtown.
The group, which Wilborn said is organizing under the name Citizens for a Clearer View of the Harbor, has been vocal in its opposition to a recent Common Council decision to declare a parking lot adjacent to the north end of the north slip surplus and seek development proposals for the property.
Aldermen have said they will consider selling the property for private development that will create a year-round destination for tourists and residents, such as a brew pub.
So far, Wilborn’s group has garnered “well over 400 signatures” on the petition, which urges aldermen “not to pursue the private development of this land and to consider a partnership with a local community group to develop this land as green space that would be available to all citizens and visitors of Port Washington.”
The Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club has proposed creating a park on the property. A public meeting to garner ideas for the park and volunteers to work on the project will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Niederkorn Library.
Wilborn said Citizens for a Clearer View of the Harbor plans to seek a meeting with Mayor Tom Mlada to discuss the property and its potential future use.
“We want to work through this so we eliminate the potential for hurt feelings on either side,” Wilborn said.
The group is interested in more than just plans for the parking lot, he added.
“The group could have a long-term role ... to be more in touch with what’s happening with the Plan Commission and the city’s planning process,” he said, particularly as it pertains to the waterfront.
“If we had been aware of this (plan) sooner, I think we could have headed this whole thing off.”
Wilborn said the group hopes to persuade city officials to concentrate its development efforts to the downtown along Franklin and Main streets and Grand Avenue.
On the lakefront, he said, the group would prefer to see one or two-story structures built closer to Jackson Street, reserving the areas closer to the lake for single-story buildings and leaving the waterfront free of development.
“If Chicago can do it, Port Washington can certainly figure out how to do it,” Wilborn said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 20:14
Club wants land the city is intent on selling to remain public and is asking for residents to join the cause
Even as Port Washington officials continue their quest to solicit proposals to develop city-owned lakefront land along the north slip, members of the Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club are soliciting ideas for a park they would like to create on the same parcel.
The club will hold a public meeting in the community room at the Niederkorn Library from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, to solicit ideas for the park.
“The Kiwanis Club wants to get a number of people together who are interested in creating a functional, attractive green space there,” club secretary John Sigwart said Monday. “That means so many things to people. We want people to think out of the box and come up with ideas.”
The meeting will also help the club develop a core of volunteers to drive the effort to create Kiwanis Park, Sigwart said.
Earlier this month, just before the Common Council voted to declare the property at the end of the north slip surplus land — paving the way for its possible sale — the club made a bid to create Kiwanis Park on the parcel.
Almost a dozen people at the meeting asked aldermen not to put the land up for sale, saying lakefront property is a precious asset that should be retained by the community, not sold.
A petition asking the city to consider retaining the property as green space has already garnered hundreds of signatures, and Pat Wilborn, who is coordinating the drive, said he hopes that total will reach 1,000 signatures in the coming weeks.
That, said Wilborn, may get the attention of aldermen who have so far not been receptive to the group’s concerns.
But Sigwart said the Kiwanis Club is not involved in the petition drive, adding the group has for years been hoping to create a Kiwanis Park in the city.
“We want to work cooperatively with the city,” he said.
The land along the north slip provides a perfect opportunity for the club and the city, he said.
Its location makes it an ideal place to develop a spot where transient boaters, marina tenants, their guests, residents and tourists could relax with a picnic lunch, Sigwart said.
The property is about halfway between Upper Lake Park and the South Beach, making it a natural resting spot, he said, and it is along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, so bikers would also likely stop there.
“What I like about Kiwanis Park there is its availability to so many people,” Sigwart said.
A multi-level seating area could be created that would give people better access to the water while not hindering views from surrounding properties, he said.
“There are a lot of opportunities,” Sigwart said. “We just need to identify them.”
This isn’t the first time the Kiwanis Club has looked at the land at the end of the north slip for a park, Sigwart noted.
When the club was seeking a location for Possibility Playground, it was the last site crossed off the list before Upper Lake Park was selected for the play area, Sigwart said.
The development of Kiwanis Park could be done much like Possibility Playground, Sigwart added.
The club would take ideas from the Jan. 22 meeting and incorporate them in a park plan created by a designer hired by the Kiwanis Foundation, he said.
That plan would be created in conjunction with representatives of the marina and the Parks and Recreation Department, Sigwart said.
“If the city thinks it might be a good idea, we could move ahead and start to raise money to create the park,” he said.
Funds to actually develop the park would likely be raised throughout the community, Sigwart said, not just through the club — just as occurred with Possibility Playground.
“It would have to be a larger community effort, but it would be one spurred by the Kiwanis Club,” he said.
He suggested the city and Kiwanis Club jointly hire an appraiser to determine the value of the city-owned property.
“I don’t think anybody has any idea now what it’s worth,” he said, adding the appraisal could be used to determine how much a developer should pay for the land and what its value as a park could be.
Creating a park on the land could make the private property across Washington Street more valuable for development while retaining public lakefront land, Sigwart said.
“I like the idea of the retail element being north of Washington Street,” he said. “You could even go three or four stories there and I don’t think anyone would be offended.”
And while city officials are looking at the possibility of creating a destination attraction on the city-owned land, Sigwart said downtown Port will have a destination next year that can serve as a bridge between downtown and the lakefront — the Port Exploreum museum being developed by the Historical Society.
“I think that’s going to be the destination everyone is looking for,” Sigwart said.
Sigwart said that there are plenty of opportunities for the club and the city to walk away from the Kiwanis Park proposal if it isn’t feasible.
If there isn’t enough interest or ideas generated at the Jan. 22 meeting, “Kiwanis could walk away,” he said.
“If the concept plan catches on, great. If it doesn’t, you walk away.”
But, he said, it’s something that ought to be considered.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 20:10
Port council reduces project-related charges for five city landowners, eliminates fees for town properties
Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday reduced the assessments charged to five city property owners and agreed to eliminate the assessments charged to town properties to pay for improvements made to highways 33 and LL.
The agreement settles a lawsuit filed a year ago by 11 property owners who argued that the assessments were unreasonable, saying their properties have not been “specially or reasonably benefitted” by the improvements to the roadways.
City Administrator Mark Grams said Monday that officials have been negotiating the settlement for several months in an attempt to avoid a trial.
Even though the city may recoup less money for the road work, he said, “you would end up spending more in legal fees” in a trial.
Grams said the city is accepting a total of $9,953 less from the city property owners, in part as a recognition that the state paid less of the Highway 33 project than a typical highway project.
While the state paid about 80% of the cost for Highway 33, he said, it paid more than 90% of the cost for Highway 32 when it was rebuilt.
“We decided to take that into account,” Grams said.
The city agreed to change the amount charged for the street work only, Grams said, not the amount charged for sidewalks, curb and gutter.
The assessments for town property were dropped, Grams said, after the city looked at how other communities handle these charges.
“Most other cities don’t put town charges on the final (assessment) resolution,” he said, while Port has traditionally assessed these properties but not collected the funds until the parcels were annexed.
City officials agreed to eliminate the assessments, Grams said, but he noted that “That’s not to say the city won’t get the money eventually.”
When these property owners seek annexation, officials will seek to collect the assessment amounts, Grams said.
“Then it’s more of a negotiation when the property owner wants to annex into the city,” he said. “You end up negotiating with them when they annex anyway.”
It’s not likely officials will forgive the assessment when the properties come into the city, Grams said.
“I guarantee that won’t happen,” he said, although negotiations then could reduce or increase the amount.
The town properties removed in the settlement are Christopher and Linda Witzlib, 1651 Willow Dr., whose assessment was $40,282; Stevlins LLC, 2440 Hwy. 33, $13,932; Raymond Last, 2364 Hwy. 33, $11,298; and Steven and Julie Boyea, 2498 Hwy. 33, $4,482.
The assessments that were reduced include Bielinski Commercial LLC of Pewaukee, whose previous assessment of $17,368 was reduced by $4,042 to $13,326; Bielinski Homes Inc. of Pewaukee, whose previous assessment of $10,544 was reduced by $2,434 to $8,111; Made Investments LLC of Port Washington, whose previous assessment of $7,532 was reduced by $1,739 to $5,794; Nicholas S. Meier, 402 N. Heritage Rd., whose previous assessment of $4,921 was reduced by $869 to $4,052; and Schmidt Farm Property LLC of Cedarburg, whose previous assessment of $4,921 was trimmed by $869 to $4,052.