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Prosecutors: Keep Slender Man attacker in hospital 40 years

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Prosecutors asked a judge Thursday to sentence a girl to 40 years in a mental hospital for stabbing a classmate in an attack she said was done to please the fictional horror character Slender Man.

Morgan Geyser, now 15, broke down in sobs during her plea hearing as a judge asked her to recount the 2014 stabbing of a classmate in a Milwaukee-area park. A co-defendant, Anissa Weier, also admitted a role in the attack.

An emotional Geyser referred to the victim by her nickname as she began to recount for the judge the crime for which she was pleading guilty.

“I hurt Bella,” Geyser said, stopping several times to compose herself during the hearing as she told the judge she stabbed her classmate with a knife she took from home.

“Anissa said that she couldn’t do it and then I had to,” Geyser said, her voice choking. When Judge Michael Bohren asked her where the girl was stabbed, Geyser said: “Everywhere.”

The victim, Payton Leutner, survived the attack by crawling out of woods, where she was found by a passing bicyclist. All three girls were 12 at the time.

Geyser will undergo a doctor’s evaluation by Nov. 13, and a hearing for sentencing was to be scheduled later. The defense made no request for length of sentence because the attorneys are waiting for the evaluation.

She agreed last week to plead guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide to avoid prison, continuing treatment in a mental hospital instead.

A jury last month determined Weier was mentally ill at the time of the attack. She faces at least three years in a mental hospital when she is sentenced later.

Prosecutors say Weier and Geyser lured Leutner into the woods at a park in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha and then attacked her. Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times while Weier urged her on, according to investigators.

Leutner’s family issued a statement saying they were happy to avoid a trial.

“Though we do not believe that an institution is where these attempted murderers belong, the current legal system does not favor victims in this situation,” the statement said.

It added: “With this closure, our daughter is a heroic survivor — and no longer a victim.”

Geyser’s attorney, Anthony Cotton, said after the hearing his client is remorseful for hurting Leutner and wrote her “a very powerful” apology letter she hopes can be delivered to her one day.

“It’s very sincere,” Cotton said.

Weier and Geyser told detectives they felt they had to kill Leutner to become Slender Man’s “proxies,” or servants, and protect their families from him.

Prosecutors initially charged both girls with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a possible sentence of up to 65 years in prison, but their plea deals spared them that. After Weier pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, a jury determined during her sentencing phase that she was mentally ill at the time of the attack and should not serve prison time.

Two weeks after the jury reached that conclusion, prosecutors and Geyser’s defense attorneys agreed on a plea deal, avoiding a trial that was scheduled to start Oct. 16. Unlike Weier, Geyser pleaded guilty to the original charge.Geyser’s attorneys have argued in court documents that she suffers from schizophrenia and psychotic spectrum disorder, making her prone to delusions and paranoid beliefs. During Thursday’s hearing, Geyser told the judge she’s currently on “quite a few” medications.A psychiatrist hired by her attorneys previously testified that she believed she could communicate telepathically with Slender Man and could see and hear other fictional characters, including unicorns and characters from the Harry Potter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. She also believed she had “Vulcan mind control.”

Judge orders Spectrum Brands to pay $1.9M in civil penalties

MADISON (AP) — A Wisconsin-based consumer products company has been ordered to pay $1.9 million in civil penalties for waiting to report a defect in coffee carafes, which resulted in injuries to nearly 70 people, and for continuing to sell them after they were recalled.

U.S. District Judge William Conley issued the order against Spectrum Brands on last week. The order stemmed from a 2016 court ruling that found the company violated the Consumer Product Safety Act by waiting years to turn over complaints about handles breaking on Black & Decker SpaceMaker carafes.

The company reported the problem to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in April 2012, but went on to sell about 600 more products, the court said.

The company sold about 159,000 coffeemakers between July 2008 and April 2012, and received about 1,600 reports of broken handles from November 2008 through April 2012.

Among those cases, 66 people reported being burned by hot coffee that spilled because of the handle breaking. Three said they were cut by broken glass. Two customers received medical attention.

Conley’s ruling cited a company official who said the company doesn’t have a clear policy on executing a recall. Conley issued a permanent injunction for the company to improve its compliance program.

Company spokesman David Prichard said the company hasn’t decided if it will appeal.

“Spectrum Brands appreciates the court’s time and consideration of the evidence in this matter,” Prichard said. “We will take the court’s ruling into account as we consider our options in this matter.”

Republicans vote to reject raises for state employees

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Legislative Republicans have voted to reject a new contract for Minnesota’s 30,000 public employees.

The state’s two massive unions for state employees ratified a new contract earlier this year. The contracts for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and AFSCME Council 5 call for a 2 percent raise this year and a 2.5 percent hike in 2018.

But a legislative subcommittee voted against the agreement Thursday. Their vote is a recommendation to the full Legislature to reject to the contract.

All six Republicans on the Subcommittee on Employee Relations voted against the agreement while Democrats voted in favor. GOP Rep. Steve Drazkowski says the raises were too big.

AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide says Republicans are beating up on state employees.

UW regents OK changes for hiring leaders

MADISON — University of Wisconsin System regents adopted sweeping hiring policy changes Thursday that clear the way for non-academics to lead the state’s colleges.

Under the plan, campuses can’t block people who lack terminal degrees and tenure from serving as system president, chancellors or vice chancellors. The system must look to recruit applicants from the private sector as well.

System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said every campus has required chancellor and vice chancellor applicants to hold a terminal degree or tenure either through policy or practice. The state budget Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed last month prohibits the regents from adopting such policies; Thursday’s changes bring the system into compliance with those budget provisions.

The regents adopted the changes on a voice vote during a meeting at UW-Stout. State schools superintendent Tony Evers cast the lone dissenting vote. Evers, a Democrat, is running against Walker in next year’s elections.

“Academic preparation is important (for system leadership positions),” Evers told the regents ahead of the vote. “This is a solution looking for a problem. (But) I realize it’s water over the dam. The Legislature and the governor decided this for us.”

Other changes in the package include:

Recruiting more private-sector candidates. A workgroup that developed the changes said in a memo to the regents that a university president’s role is changing and a 2017 American Council on Education survey found 65 percent of chancellors or president said budget and management are their primary tasks, leading to fewer academics being interested in such jobs.

Shrinking search committees from 17 members to 10.

Releasing the names of two to three finalists, down from five. Regent Drew Petersen, who led the work group, said there’s no need to publicize the names of people with only a 20 percent chance of winning the job when it could jeopardize their current jobs.

“We wanted to find ways to make our hiring process more attractive to candidates and streamline that process as much as possible,” Petersen said.

Ex-auto dealer to be released from Minneapolis halfway house

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minnesota auto dealer will be released from a halfway house where he's lived since serving most of a 10-year sentence in federal prison.

Denny Hecker, 65, will be released from the Minneapolis halfway house Thursday.

At one point, Hecker owned 26 car dealerships and a car rental agency, but his financial success took a turn during the Great Recession as the economy struggled and car sales decreased.

Hecker filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, when he owed $767 million. He was sentenced in 2011 after pleading guilty to bankruptcy and wire fraud.

Prosecutors say he took tens of millions from auto lenders, including Chrysler Financial, to live an opulent lifestyle.

Hecker originally was scheduled to be released from prison in 2018 but was given an early release because he participated in a drug and alcohol program while incarcerated.

Barbara May, Hecker's attorney, said her client has a car, job and a place to live once he's released.

"He sounds fabulous," May said. "He's upbeat; he's really looking forward to moving on. He's got lots of business ideas."

Hecker plans to remain close to his family in the Twin Cities, May said.