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Former La Crosse schools show choir co-director accused of assaulting second student

A former La Crosse School District show choir co-director who admitted to sexually assaulting a Logan High School student now is accused of assaulting another student years earlier, in 2010.


Prosecutors on Tuesday levied four more felony sexual assault charges against 33-year-old Dustin Bagstad, who was charged in early December with sexually assaulting the first student.

Bagstad, 33, pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault of a child younger than 16, six counts of sexual assault of a child by a person who works with children, two counts of exposure and repeated sexual assault of the same child after he waived his preliminary hearing in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Bagstad resigned from his position on Dec. 10, according to the district. He is free on a $2,500 cash bond.

The first student, now 16, told authorities during an interview in late November that Bagstad was her singing coach and that the pair began communicating on Snapchat, where they exchanged nude and semi-nude photographs, according to the complaint.

She told authorities that Bagstad first had sex with her at his house at 3343 Mormon Coulee Road on Nov. 8, 2016, after removing their clothing while she was working on homework, the complaint stated. The girl said she felt trapped during the encounter and that she feared he would have her removed from choir if she tried to stop him.

Bagstad sexually assaulted the girl another 10 times through July 17, most often at his apartment, the complaint stated. Two of the encounters took place before and after choir rehearsal.

Investigators found love letters from choir students and a framed photograph of the victim in Bagstad’s apartment. They seized his bedding, laptops and cellphone.

Bagstad admitted to having a sexual relationship with the student, who made him promise that he “would never do this to anyone else,” according to the complaint. He also said he had “intimate” conversations with a second student, the complaint stated.

A second victim interviewed on Dec. 21 told investigators that Bagstad first sexually assaulted her at his apartment in 2010, when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at Central High School. She estimated he had sex with her 30 to 40 times over a nine-month span, according to the complaint.

From Tribune files: Top crime stories of 2018

During her vacation to Florida in late 2010 or early 2011, Bagstad flew to meet the student and gave her a ring, the complaint stated.

A 15-year-old Logan High School student and show choir member said Bagstad sent two semi-nude photographs of himself to the student in April or May, according to the complaint.

Another former show choir student said Bagstad sent her semi-nude photographs and asked her for sex when she was 16 years old.

Another student told police that she knew of show choir students who did not want to report Bagstad because they didn’t want to jeopardize their show choir season, the complaint stated.

Trump calls for unity on immigration, infrastructure in State of the Union

WASHINGTON — Addressing a deeply divided nation, President Donald Trump called upon lawmakers Tuesday night to “summon the unity” to make good on long-standing promises to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and fractured immigration systems, infusing his presidency with a sense of optimism, for at least one high-profile night.

“To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time,” Trump declared in his State of the Union address. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.”

Despite his calls for bipartisanship, Trump spoke with tensions running high on Capitol Hill. An impasse over immigration prompted a three-day government shutdown earlier this year, and lawmakers appear no closer to resolving the status of the “Dreamers” — young people living in the U.S. illegally ahead of a new Feb. 8 deadline for funding operations. The parties have also clashed this week over the plans of Republicans on the House intelligence committee to release a classified memo on the Russia investigation involving Trump’s presidential campaign — a decision the White House backs but the Justice Department is fighting.

The controversies that have dogged Trump — and the ones he has created— have overshadowed strong economic gains during his first year in office. His approval ratings have hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency, and just 3 in 10 Americans said the United States was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In the same survey, 67 percent of Americans said the country was more divided because of Trump.

At times, Trump’s address appeared to be aimed more at validating his first year in office than setting the course for his second. He devoted significant time to touting the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, promising the plan will “provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.” He also highlighted the decision made early in his first year to withdraw the U.S. from a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade pact, declaring: “The era of economic surrender is totally over.”

He spoke about potential agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, including a call for $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure spending and partnerships with states and the private sector. He touched only briefly on issues like health care that have been at the center of the Republican Party’s policy agenda for years.

Tackling the sensitive immigration debate that has roiled Washington, Trump redoubled his recent pledge to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants — as part of a package that would also require increased funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the nation’s visa lottery method and revamping the current legal immigration system. Some Republicans are wary of the hardline elements of Trump’s plan and it’s unclear whether his blueprint could pass Congress.

Trump played to the culture wars, alluding to his public spat with professional athletes who led protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, declaring that paying tribute to the flag is a “civic duty.”

Republicans led multiple rounds of enthusiastic applause during the speech, but for the opposition party it was a more somber affair. Democrats provided a short spurt of polite applause for Trump as he entered the chamber, but offered muted reactions throughout the speech. A cluster of about two dozen Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, remained planted firmly in their seats, staring sternly at the president and withholding applause.

After devastating defeats in 2016, Democrats are hopeful that Trump’s sagging popularity can help the party rebound in November’s midterm elections. In a post-speech rebuttal, Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was seeking to undercut Trump’s optimistic tone and remind voters of the personal insults and attacks often leveled by the president.

“Bullies may land a punch,” Kennedy said, according to excerpts from his remarks. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.”

On international affairs, Trump warned of the dangers from “rogue regimes,” like Iran and North Korea, terrorist groups, like the Islamic State, and “rivals” like China and Russia “that challenge our interests, our economy and our values.” Calling on Congress to lift budgetary caps and boost spending on the military, Trump said that “unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.”

First lady Melania Trump, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight following the latest allegations of Trump infidelity, arrived at the capitol ahead of her husband to attend a reception with guests of the White House. Those sitting alongside the first lady included an Ohio welder who the White House says will benefit from the new tax law and the parents of two Long Island teenagers who were believed to have been killed by MS-13 gang members.


Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Melrose-Mindoro High School's Calette Lockington drives to the basket for a layup during Monday’s nonconference game against Holmen at Holmen High School. Lockington scored a season-high 18 points in the Mustangs' 73-62 victory, pushing the Mustangs' record to 17-0.

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Study: Lowering blood alcohol limit would reduce drunken driving deaths

A new study says states should lower the legal threshold for drunken driving and enact laws to reduce the availability of alcohol.

Peoples’ ability to operate motor vehicles begins to deteriorate at levels much lower than the 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration that is the standard in the United States, according to the report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Authors of the peer-reviewed study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recommend setting a 0.05 BAC limit, which they say has proved to be an effective strategy for reducing alcohol-related crashes in countries such as Austria, Denmark and Japan.

List of 25 US cities where people binge drink the most includes five from Wisconsin

About 10,000 people die each year in alcohol-related crashes in the United States, 40 percent of whom weren’t drinking, according to the report, which concludes that despite efforts in the 1980s to lower BAC limits and raise the legal drinking age to 21, progress in reducing drunken driving deaths has stalled.

“The plateauing fatality rates indicate that what has been done to decrease deaths from alcohol-impaired driving has been working but is no longer sufficient to reverse this growing public health problem,” said Steven Teutsch, an adjunct professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health who led the study committee.

The report also recommends raising alcohol taxes, which have not kept pace with inflation, and reducing the number of places where booze is sold as well as the hours it’s available.

Other recommendations include:

  • Policies and programs to encourage convenient and affordable transportation alternatives for drinkers.
  • Well-publicized sobriety checkpoints.
  • Wider adoption of OWI courts, which La Crosse County has been using since 2006.
  • Insurance coverage for alcohol abuse prevention and treatment.

Utah last year became the first state to adopt a 0.05 BAC, though the law doesn’t take effect until Dec. 30. The Associated Press reports that a New York lawmaker plans to introduce similar legislation there.

The most dangerous states for drinking and driving

The most dangerous states for drinking and driving