Area war opponents fined for trespassing
It was not the civics lesson Mike Miles expected.
He and John Heid, both of Luck, were found guilty of trespass Monday in Douglas County Court for refusing to leave U.S. Rep. Dave Obey's field office in Superior at the close of business hours March 13.
Despite attempts by the men to address their reasons for choosing to remain, Judge Michael Lucci ruled they were in the wrong.
"I understand you folks had some very strong feelings that day," Lucci said. "I understand you were making a statement."
However, the judge said, all people are governed by the law. If everyone felt they could remain in a private office until they got the results they wanted, he said, "there would be a lot of disorder; a lot of chaos."
The incident began when about a dozen Wisconsin residents visited Obey's local office to discuss the lawmaker's Iraq funding bill. During the nearly four-hour visit, the group asked to view the bill and spoke via telephone with other Obey staffers and the Democratic congressman himself.
At no time were they given a copy of the bill, Miles said, and it was not available for viewing on any Web site.
"They couldn't get it to us, so we stayed," he said. "We felt it was reasonable. People are dying over there."
Heid testified they intended to stay at the office until Obey agreed not to sign the bill. He said while it offered a pull-out date for U.S. troops, the bill also increased funding for Iraq operations, something they oppose.
Miles told the court they were exercising their constitutional right to redress grievances. Heid likened their actions to those of a police officer facing an emergency situation.
"I suppose that's a given; you were there with a purpose," Lucci said. "I grant you that." But he said that was not the main issue.
When Miles began listing other lawmakers' practices regarding keeping offices open for protesters, City Attorney Frog Prell objected.
"We could cover every legislator in the county and still not come to the heart of the matter here," he said.
"I agree," Lucci replied.
The protesters were asked to leave just before 5 p.m. March 13 by Matthew Rudig, Obey's northern field representative. Half complied, but about six remained. Superior Police were contacted. Sgt. Christopher Kirchoff and Officer Tim Monte responded. In their presence, Rudig again asked the visitors to leave. All but Miles, Heid and Bonnie Lee Urfer, also of Luck, left.
At that point, Kirchoff explained they would be charged with trespass if they did not leave. The trio indicated they understood and were arrested after they again refused to leave.
Urfer pled guilty to the charge of trespass on March 14, according to court records.
The charges are not criminal in nature. Each man was fined $185.50. Both men told the judge they do not plan to pay.
"I'll encourage you that is not a good attitude," Lucci warned. If the Luck men do not pay the fine, he said, they could be held in contempt of court.