Fake Arrests, Fake Citations, and Withheld Easements:  The Trifecta of Our Legal Troubles in Minocqua

Fake Arrests, Fake Citations, and Withheld Easements: The Trifecta of Our Legal Troubles in Minocqua

Well last week was a doozy to say the least.
Not only was there an erroneous statewide story about my imminent arrest, but Oneida County filed a ridiculous lawsuit against me for unpaid fines totaling more than $25K, and we lost a preliminary injunction in Federal Court asking a judge to force the Town of Minocqua to once again stop harassing my company and allow us to build an already-approved beer garden.
Here are the details.
Last Wednesday, most of the NBC, CBS, and ABC affiliates throughout the state of Wisconsin erroneously announced that there was a warrant out for my arrest!
The prior Wednesday, April 10, was the deadline for my legal team to hand over personal financial documents to Judge Leon Stenz, the conservative rural judge overseeing my defamation lawsuit who has made numerous legal errors over the last three years.
Although my insurance company is still legally on the hook to pay the settlement in the event that we don't win this lawsuit on appeal, Stenz somehow acquiesced and allowed Waukesha attorney Matt Fernholz--President of Milwaukee’s Federalist Society and Robin Vos’ personal attorney-- access to my company's and my personal financial data.
This was an overreach on Stenz’s part, especially because the plaintiff, Gregg Walker, publishes a right-wing propaganda rag that has already written over 65 negative articles about me. I imagine he is licking his chops to see what sort of information he can take out of context from my tax filings for that 66th hit piece.
Already knee deep in judicial malpractice, Stenz went one step further and allowed Fernholz to depose me AGAIN about my political Super PAC, which has absolutely nothing to do with this defamation lawsuit.
My mistake was that I didn't know that this kangaroo deposition AND the deadline for those financial documents were all supposed to occur on April 10.  I hadn’t paid much attention to the deposition deadline because I planned to plead the 5th amendment to all of Fernholz’s questions.

Why? because I consider him nothing more than a legal henchman for the REPUBLICAN Party—a party who should ABSOLUTELY NOT be allowed any insight into my private PROGRESSIVE political activities.
So when Fred called me from the Oneida County courthouse a half hour before the deposition was supposed to start, I answered my phone from our Madison tap room 3 hours away and told him there was no way I’d make it to that deposition on time.
Fred suggested to Fernholz that we just do the deposition on Zoom, like we'd already done when I was in San Diego on business a year prior. Fernholz rejected this option, threatening instead to hold me in contempt of court and have me arrested. Mind you, I could have provided answers to all his questions just as effectively through zoom or telephone as I could have in person.

So why did Fernholz refuse to question me via zoom or telephone? Because he’s not genuinely concerned about the deposition. His, and the Republican Party’s (working through the Lakeland Times) sole objective throughout this entire process has been to silence me. This has never been about my allegedly defamatory statements; it's been an attempt to suppress progressive political speech in Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, Fernholz’s request for Judge Stenz to issue a bench warrant for my arrest collided with the ennui of a bunch of underpaid, under-experienced, and over-worked broadcast journalists in rural Wisconsin.

Not a single journalist in the entire state who saw this juicy headline pop up on their scanners decided to pick up the phone and call the Oneida County Clerk of Courts, who would have told them that the PROPOSED warrant for my arrest, submitted by an overzealous Republican lawyer with a HUGE Napoleon complex, wasn’t an ACTUAL warrant for my arrest.
The first journalist to attempt to set the record straight was from WORT FM, an all-volunteer community radio station in Madison, after we tipped them off that the rest of the state’s ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates had gotten this story completely wrong and made me look like a fugitive from justice.

Not only was I on the run from the cops last Wednesday, but I recently got sued...again:)

Last Friday, Oneida County filed a lawsuit against me, demanding payment for fines related to 110 ordinance citations, each carrying a maximum fine of $250.
If my math is right, that amounts to potentially $27,500 in fines.

This has now become a yearly April ritual—the month that the Old Boys Network of Minocqua (OBNOM) figure out another way to harass me IMMEDIATELY before the busy summer tourism season begins.
This lawsuit is crazy for several reasons:

First, many of these new citations date back nearly two years, which begs the question –why are they issuing them now instead of 2 years ago?
Second, I dealt with all of this drama last summer and ultimately compromised with the county to build a few parking spaces in exchange for my coveted beer garden. This fight was supposed to be over!
To help you remember the story, the county issued me several citations last summer for allowing people to drink beer on my concrete stoop (still legally “on premise” but partially “outside,” which they deemed “illegal”).
I fought against these citations tooth and nail because it was obvious that zoning officials were being told to SELECTIVELY ENFORCE county code in order to hurt my business. I wreaked havoc at county board meetings when they denied me due process and organized protests in the streets!
After receiving weeks of humiliating press coverage from around the state, reading over 8k angry progressive emails from around the COUNTRY, and being sued in federal court, the Oneida County zoning committee FINALLY capitulated and did the right thing.
They FINALLY granted me a conditional use permit to build a beer garden, which had they done from the start, would have NULLIFIED all the citations that they’re now creating out of thin air to rack up a $27,500 fine.
As you can imagine, we have insider information suggesting that this new lawsuit was instigated by none other than the Lakeland Times’ publisher Gregg Walker, who is the plaintiff in the aforementioned defamation lawsuit.
It appears that once again, Oneida County’s “Boss Hogg” is putting pressure on his government minions to figure out new ways to shut me down this summer.
My attorneys inform me that as has become their buffoonish practice, the county overplayed their hand, and by initiating the lawsuit in the manner that they have, they are likely violating the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Believe it or not, we received yet a 3rd legal blow last week! A federal judge rejected our request for a preliminary injunction against the Town of Minocqua.

In March, we filed a second lawsuit against the Town, alleging that they are retaliating against us for bringing our original lawsuit against them last fall. 
Why did we bring this second suit?
Because the Town of Minocqua sent my attorney an email explicitly explaining that they were refusing to grant us an easement for cars to enter our property from the highway unless we dropped our lawsuit against them.

Talk about blackmail!

Now if I don't get this easement, I apparently will be forced to break the "law" AGAIN if I want to serve customers in my beer garden because that easement is a requirement to fulfill Oneida County's Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build said beer garden.

Mind you, this easement was only necessary in the first place because the town forced me to build a parking lot for cars to enter from the highway when there had never been one on that property before, and when there's an always-empty public parking lot directly across the street.
Despite this blatant evidence of blackmail from the Town, the Federal Court for the Western District of Wisconsin declined to issue a preliminary injunction. 
For those unfamiliar, a preliminary injunction is an emergency injunction that remains in effect only during the pending lawsuit. To obtain a preliminary injunction, one must prove that irreparable harm will occur without the injunction. The court explained that they couldn't issue the preliminary injunction because we weren't suffering irreparable harm as a result of the retaliation.
The court did not make a ruling on either our or the Town of Minocqua's likelihood of success on the merits, but they did rule that we could use the emails from the town of Minocqua admitting to the retaliation, despite Minocqua's rather dramatic efforts to have them excluded from evidence. So the suit will move forward and we will try to get a permanent injunction as quickly as possible.  
Now, I totally understand why a federal judge would think that the lack of an easement wouldn’t necessarily cause my business irreparable harm, but taken in the context of our ongoing defamation lawsuit and the county's brand new lawsuit trying to collect $27.5K, there’s a lot going on right now.
No less than 3 institutions comprised of members of the Old Boys Network—the town, the county, and the newspaper--are engaging in separate but equally absurd efforts to destroy my company.
That’s downright daunting, I daresay!
First, I just can’t believe how long all of these court cases take. The wheels of justice move at a glacial pace, and the hours my lawyers put in just keep piling up.
How on EARTH could an average small business survive all of this?  How on EARTH can a justice system be remotely fair when it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to merely defend oneself from such an onslaught of political bad actors?
We’ve only lasted so long because we sell pretty damn good beer, make funny t-shirts, and most importantly, have a mailing list of people who are as incensed as I am about how so much of Northern Wisconsin has become a Trumpian Wild West, where justice and due process goes to die.
Without your help—Publisher Gregg Walker, Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim, County Chairman Scott Holewinski, Federalist Society President Matt Fernholz, and most likely behind the scenes in all of this—Republican Assembly Leader Robin Vos--would have crushed us years ago.
But Wisconsin is tilting slightly progressive, right?  Don’t we have a Democratic Governor, a Democratic Attorney General, and a progressive-leaning Supreme Court? Haven’t they seen what has been happening to us "Up North" over the last three years? Can’t they help?
I’m still holding out hope that they do, but my sinking suspicion is that since there aren't a lot of progressive voters up here, the Democratic powers-that-be have determined to keep their powder try for the next election and try not to annoy the non-existent middle by lending me, a progressive firebrand, a hand.

So in the meantime, I just gotta keep getting creative and keep asking for help.
So here is the "asking for help" part.

If you think that this legal onslaught is simply over-the-top and unfair, please consider donating to our legal defense fund.

My company’s continuing legal fees have now begun to hurt my ability to finish building the beer gardens in both of my taprooms in Madison and Minocqua. Without those additional beer garden seats, there simply won't be enough beer sales coming in to both pay the lawyers AND the mortgage.
So once again, It's time to get creative.

I've decided to do what I did in Madison and sell naming rights to cans in a "Love Wins" can mural and barstool brass nameplates to raise the money needed to continue paying my contractors.

We’re planning to build another “Love Wins” can wall in our Minocqua space as part of our beer garden expansion. At $50 per can with your name on it, you can help us get our beer garden built before Memorial Day. 

Additionally, we're offering brass nameplates for thirteen stools in the new bar area for $1K per stool.

Between the cans and stools, we're hoping to raise approximately $20K, which is the expected cost of the beer garden expansion/bar area in Minocqua.

Buy a can for Minocqua #LoveWins can mural here

Buy Minocqua Brass Barstool Nameplate here

Lastly, we're about a month away from completing our beer garden in Madison, and could use some financial help to pull that off as well.

We've got about 332 "unnamed" cans left on our can mural there, and 3 chairs that don't have nameplates on them yet.

If you live in or visit Madison frequently, this is a great way to help us AND be forever remembered in our cool little space.

Buy Can for Madison Wall Here

Buy 1 of the last 3 Madison Barstool Nameplates Here

I never thought that after working for Facebook, Google, and Oracle as a management consultant, I would be asking ~100K people on a mailing list to buy cans and stool nameplates to help keep my company afloat.

I never considered myself the "little" guy until I made myself one by standing up to the reactionary old boys network in Northern Wisconsin, who has been buoyed by a statewide Republican Party buoyed by MAGA's laser focus on our little fly-over swing state.

I now know what it feels like to be an activist fighting for the "little guy," and I now know how important it is for the "little guys" to stand together, because if we don't, we'll get railroaded by those who don't want our voices of reason to be heard.

Help me fight back, would you?  These guys simply can't be allowed to win. What they're doing is immoral.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company.

I believe that my fight is, in many ways, symbolic of our much larger fight to save the soul of America--and I hope you do too. 

Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC

Donate to the Minocqua Brewing Company Legal Defense Fund Here

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