Tyler Huffhines, the alleged leader of a huge blackmarket THC vape manufacturing ring, rejected a plea offer Monday that recommended a six-year prison sentence.
Huffhines, 20, of Paddock Lake, is charged with six felonies, including three counts of possession of in excess of 10,000 grams of THC with intent to deliver.
He is alleged to have been the organizer of a drug manufacturing and sales business that had employees manufacturing thousands of THC vape cartridges per day from a Bristol condominium and his mother’s Union Grove real estate office. His mother, Courtney Huffhines, and brother, Jacob Huffhines, are also charged for their roles in the scheme, along with several employees.
The operation came to light after an investigation that began into vape sales at a Waukesha high school. The Huffhines’ arrest and charges came at the same time.
At a hearing Monday, prosecutor Lesli Boese said the state offered Huffhines a plea agreement that, had he accepted it, would have seen him plead guilty to two counts of possession of THC with intent to deliver and one count of identity theft. The state would then have dropped the remaining criminal counts and recommended that he serve six years in prison followed by three years of probation on one count, with stayed sentences for the other two counts. The offer was contingent on Huffhines’ defense not filing any motions in the case.
Judge Mary K. Wagner asked Huffhines if he understood the offer.
“Yes, ma’am. I reject it,” Huffhines answered.
Defense attorney Mark Richards told the judge he believed that the charges against Huffhines are not legally sound, citing a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in a different drug case. In that case, a man named Dennis Brantner was charged with separate counts of possession of a controlled substance, with each of the counts involving the same type of pill, but in different sized dozes. The court found that just the difference in the dosage was not enough for separate charges.
Richards argues that in the Huffhines case, based on the Brantner ruling, his client should not be facing three separate possession of THC charges. Richards said Huffhines is charged with separate counts for the different forms of THC found in the case, all of it found in the same condominium on the same day.
“Ethically, I can’t ask my client to plea to something I don’t believe exists in law,” Richards said.
Boese told the judge that she believes that the difference in the types of THC and the fact that they were marketed differently is sufficient for the separate charges.
That issue will go before the judge at a hearing in August. Richards also plans to contest the use at trial of statements Huffhines made to investigators.
The other defendants in the Huffhines case will next be in court in August.
A Twin Lakes woman has been arrested and charged with five felony counts of theft and money laundering.
The Fox Lake Police Department announced the arrest Friday of Michele L. Kirk, a.k.a. Michele L. Fitte, 50, of Twin Lakes.
She has been charged with two counts of felony theft, and three counts of felony money laundering.
The charges stem from an investigation initiated on Oct. 28, 2019, by the Fox Lake Police Department, according to a department media release.
Kirk (Fitte), employed as a property manager of Vacation Village Home Owner’s Association, is alleged to have exerted unauthorized control over and money laundering of funds/property belonging to the association in excess of $1 million.
An arrest warrant was issued on Thursday, and she was taken into custody a short time later.
Her bond amount was set at $250,000. She was transported to the Lake County Jail to await a bond hearing.
During the extensive eight-month investigation, the Fox Lake Police Department was assisted by the Lake County State’s Attorney, the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
A Chicago man was charged this week for a violent home invasion that happened in December.
Calvin Richardson, 34, was charged with armed burglary, false imprisonment—use of a dangerous weapon, armed robbery with use of force, first-degree reckless injury and aggravated battery.
According to the criminal complaint, Kenosha Police were called Dec. 9, 2019, to a home on the 2000 block of 61st Street. They found a man who was bleeding heavily from multiple stab wounds. The man, who was losing consciousness, also had duct tape around his forearms.
The man was treated for his injuries at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.
He told police that he came home that night to find a man he knew only by a nickname “Little Man” sitting on his porch. The man asked to use his phone, and he brought him inside. A short time later, there was a knock on the door, and when he answered it, a man he had never seen before pointed a handgun at his face, according to the complaint.
He said the men wrapped his hands, wrists and neck with duct tape, threatened to shoot him, and beat him with a gun, demanding money. “Should I kill him? Should I kill him?,” one of the men asked.
The man told police the man he did not know began punching him — he later realized he was being stabbed — then fled with money from the man’s house. After the men left, he was able to call for help.
According to the criminal complaint, Little Man was later identified as Richardson. The second man was not identified in the complaint.
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department deputies searched unsuccessfully Monday night for two men believed to have dumped a car after a chase with Racine law enforcement.
According to Lt. Eric Klinkhammer, the Racine Police Department pursued two men believed to have been involved in a shooting, ending the chase when the men’s vehicle crossed into Kenosha County. Klinkhammer said the men pulled off on the 1500 block of Sheridan Road in Somers and fled on foot at about 8:15 p.m.
Klinkhammer said deputies searched the area with the help of a police dog, but were unable to locate the men.
Woman reportedly stabbed teen in fight
A 20-year-old Pleasant Prairie woman is being held on $7,000 bond, alleged to have stabbed a 17-year-old girl during a fight.
Adayah Paige is charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct.
According to the criminal complaint, Paige is alleged to have stabbed the girl in her face and hand with a knife during a fight June 21 on the 6400 block of 23rd Avenue, one of her injuries requiring surgery. The fight was prompted by a Facebook dispute.
At her initial appearance Tuesday, defense attorney Terry Rose said he had a video of the fight and that it shows Paige was defending herself.
Man faces fourth OWI charge
Joseph Bradtke, 55, of Kenosha, was charged Tuesday with operating while intoxicated-fourth offense.
According to the criminal complaint, a Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department deputy stopped Bradtke on the 900 block of Sheridan Road in Somers Monday after seeing him driving without headlights.
The complaint states that Bradtke admitted he had been drinking “a lot.” A preliminary breath test showed an alcohol level of 0.241. He has past convictions for operating while intoxicated in 1990, 1992 and 1994.
Police investigating possible robbery
Kenosha Police are investigating an incident in which a woman was injured and her bike and purse stolen.
Police said the incident was reported at 12:41 a.m. June 18 in the area of 10th Avenue and 40th Street. The 28-year-old woman reported she was riding her bike home from work at about midnight. The last thing she remembered was riding near Union Park. Later, she said, two women found her unconscious, and her bike and purse were missing.
“She is not sure how it happened,” said Sgt. Jeremy DeWitt.
DeWitt said the woman had “road rash” and was treated by paramedics at the scene. He said the incident is under investigation as a possible robbery.
A 52-year-old Kenosha man who was at a Back the Blue rally in support of police is facing a possible felony charge after allegedly punching a plainclothes police officer.
The man, who is not being named because he has not been charged, was arrested at the Back the Blue rally Saturday after allegedly punching a police officer. He spent the weekend in jail on recommended charges of battery to a police officer and disorderly conduct. He was released on a signature bond Monday without charges
At a bond only hearing, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Burgoyne told the court commissioner that the case was being turned over to the Walworth County District Attorney’s office to review for charges due to conflicts with the Kenosha office. Burgoyne said that review would likely be completed within two weeks.
Defense attorney Frank Parise said his client was at the rally “in support of police.”
Parise told the commissioner that the man was punched by someone and responded by hitting someone he saw coming toward him.
“He responded thinking he was defending himself,” Parise said.
The man was released on a $2,000 signature bond.
According to Lt. Joseph Nosalik, there were two arrests at the rally, which was attended by an estimated 250 to 300 people and about 50 counter-protesters.
In addition to the man arrested for punching the officer, Nosalik said, one person was arrested for disorderly conduct.
MADISON — In a case where an attorney should have listened to her client, an appeals court ordered the state to release a former Kenosha man from prison or grant him a new appeal after concluding the attorney didn’t pursue the best grounds for appeal.
Antonio G. Ramirez Jr., 45, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after being convicted in 2001 of first-degree sexual assault of a child, and several related child-sex offenses occurring in 1998-99.
According to an opinion of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued Tuesday:
The child was about eight years old at the time of the trial, and was subpoenaed through her mother but didn’t testify nor did her 5-year-old brother. Instead, Circuit Judge Wilbur Warren allowed jurors to hear their statements through police officers and medical professionals.
Before trial, the children’s mother sent Warren a letter recanting her statement accusing Ramirez of the assaults. Ramirez’s trial attorney told Warren that Mrs. Ramirez had “instructed (the girl) what to say because of her rage at her husband.” Ramirez’s attorney unsuccessfully argued that the conflicting statements gave her the right to confront or cross examine the witnesses.
Mrs. Ramirez testified at trial recanting the incriminating statement she gave to police about her husband. That apparently didn’t convince jurors who found Ramirez guilty on multiple counts relating to the assaults.
During the year following Ramirez’s conviction, the U.S. Supreme changed part of the basis for confronting witness at trial. Ramirez wrote his appellate attorney, Lynn Hackbarth, asking him to raise the confrontation issue, she didn’t.
Hackbarth raised seven other issues on appeal, which were rejected, and in 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Acting as his own attorney, Ramirez appealed claiming that Hackbarth provided “ineffective assistance of counsel” for failing to raise his right to confront witnesses claim. However, two levels of state court ruled that the new right to confront couldn’t be applied retroactively to his case, also admitting the statements through police or medical professionals was harmless as other evidence of his guilt was “overwhelming.”
With his state court remedies exhausted, Ramirez filed against the state in federal court in Madison. While the state sought extensions for nearly 2½ years, Ramirez finally requested an appointed attorney in August 2016.
In 2018, District Judge James Peterson ruled for Ramirez finding that the state appeals court’s rejection of Ramirez’s appeal was based on an unreasonable interpretation of case law. Also, changes in Ramirez’s right to confront witnesses applied to his case because his conviction was not final when those changes were issued.
Peterson ordered the state to release Ramirez from custody or grant him a new appeal within 90 days.
The state appealed that ruling to the Chicago-based appeals court.
In finding for Ramirez, the court said the Wisconsin court “appears to have ‘inadvertently overlooked’ the ineffective assistance claim.”
Even the state acknowledged Ramirez’s confrontation claim was obvious, and that all of the claims Hackbarth raised were weak.
If the statements Ramirez wanted to confront were excluded as inadmissible, the evidence against him is not overwhelming, according to the federal appeals court.
“We conclude that Mr. Ramirez ‘had a reasonable chance of success on appeal but for [Attorney Hackbarth’s] deficient performance.’ We need not decide whether Mr. Ramirez would have prevailed; rather, what we decide here is that the confrontation claim had a better than fighting chance at the time,” according to the 26-page opinion.
Messages sent to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office for comment on the decision were not returned by deadline.
Kite also did not return a request for comment.
Ramirez is an inmate at Jackson Correctional Institution.