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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Seek New Judge In City Murder Case

At what was scheduled as an arraignment proceeding Thursday, Aug. 1, murder suspect Brent Kaempf requested that a substitute judge be named to replace Marinette County Circuit Judge James A. Morrison.

Since Wisconsin law allows a defendant in a criminal case to request one automatic judge substitution granting the request was automatic. The request must be made before a plea is submitted. The District Court in Green Bay will appoint a substitute judge, after which a continued arraignment will be scheduled. A plea is expected at that time.

Kaempf, 48, was arrested following the stabbing death of his girl friend Patricia “Trish” Wasbisch, 45, late on the night of Saturday, April 27 or early Sunday, April 28 in the home they shared at 526 Thompson St., Peshtigo. Wasbisch was well known throughout the local area for her work as a domestic violence advocate, most recently as interim director of Rainbow House Domestic Abuse Services in Marinette, where she had been employed for a dozen years.

Kaempf has been held in Marinette County Jail on $1 million bond since his arrest in Wauwatosa on April 29. He appeared before Morrison for the arraignment in Marinette Circuit Court Branch II Thursday morning by way of video conference. With him was his court-appointed “Dean” attorney, Jeffrey Jazgar of Green Bay.

In the court room, in addition to Judge Morrison, were District Attorney Allen Brey, Assistant District Attorney Kent Hoffman, court reporters and news media.

Morrison began the proceedings by addressing an issue connected with sale of a home Kaempf owns at W3555 Aubin Street, Peshtigo. Morrison noted that when he approved assignment of a Dean attorney for Kaempf in May he ordered a second lien be placed on Kaempf’s property with Marinette County as leinholder. Morrison said the title company has asked that the county’s lien be removed to facilitate the sale. Morrison said it was his intention to remove the county’s lien on the property itself, and instead issue an order placing a lien on proceeds of the sale, which now will go to the Marinette County Clerk of Courts to be used for Kaempf’s legal defense.

Neither Kaempf nor Jazgar objected to that proposal, and Morrison issued the necessary order.

Next on the docket was a motion filed on behalf of Kaempf asking that Morrison recuse himself from the case. The motion stated because of the victim’s employment she had much contact with law enforcement personnel all across the county, and that she had served on Morrison’s campaign committee when he ws seeking election to the judgeship.

Morrison denied that request. He said when the case first came to his court he had stated that the victim was well known to him and everyone in the Marinette County court system, and that in fact he may have represented her ex-husband in a divorce case about a decade ago. As to serving on his campaign committee, Morrison said they had no direct contact. She circulated nomination papers on his behalf and obtained about 200 signatures, he said. He repeated that he had informed all parties of this when the case first came to him, and there were no objections raised.

“I was convinced then and I remain convinced now that I can remain impartial and having known the victim will not affect my judgment.

After conferring briefly with Kaempf with the microphones turned off, Jazgar said that based on the comments Morrison had made, his client wanted to exercise his right to a substitute judge.

Morrison said he would proceed with the paper work connected with the property lien, “and one minute after that is filed we will file the motion for substitution.”

Before proceedings adjourned, Jazgar acknowledged that he had received over 800 pages of discovery and 13 tapes and CDs connected with the investigations.


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