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November 20, 2019

10/22/2019 7:30:00 AM
Menasha man enters not guilty pleas in Pioneer Park crash
By River News Staff

A 28-year-old Menasha man accused of crashing his vehicle at Rhinelander's Pioneer Park Sept. 21 after fleeing police waived his right to a preliminary hearing during a brief appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court Oct. 14.

Travis James Johnson was charged Sept. 23 with second degree recklessly endangering safety and fleeing an officer, both felonies. In addition to the criminal charges, more than 20 traffic citations are also tracking with the case.

Johnson announced his decision to waive the preliminary hearing through his attorney Elizabeth Svehlek. After assistant district attorney Jillian Pfeifer advised that the information, the formal charging document in a criminal case, she would be filing would mirror the criminal complaint, Svehlek agreed to proceed to arraignment. Johnson entered not guilty pleas and he will next appear in court Nov. 19.

According to the complaint, State Trooper Steve Detienne was on patrol in the Rhinelander area Sept. 21 when the Oneida County sheriff's department reported a blue minivan towing a trailer was headed eastbound on Highway 8 near Crestwood Drive in an erratic manner.

According to Detienne's report, the sheriff's department received several calls reporting the minivan appeared to be driving into oncoming traffic, "looking like it was trying to hit other cars."

After locating the vehicle, Detienne described the driver as behaving in an unusual manner.

"I saw a lone white male driver in the van," Detienne wrote. "I could see his head and upper body swaying/lolling front to back in an exaggerated manner with his mouth open."

Eventually, the minivan made its way through the roundabout at highways 8 and 47 and through the construction zone.

As it approached Pioneer Park, it did not appear to attempt to turn or slow down, Detienne wrote.

According to the report, the van drove through a set of five or six batting cages and collided with the park's brick bathroom building, causing extensive damage.

A syringe was found in Johnson's pocket and drug paraphernalia, and pills, were found in a hinged box inside the vehicle subsequent to the crash, the complaint states.

According to Detienne's report, Johnson acted "very lethargic and slow." 

"He was staring off into the distance and did not look at who was talking to him," Detienne added, noting that Johnson had difficulty with questions like his date of birth.

Detienne also noted that Johnson had what appeared to be blue paint on his hands and cheeks.

"The EMTs did not have any explanation for it," Detienne wrote. "I suspected he may have been inhaling fumes from paint or something that would tint his hands blue."

Upon being transported to jail, Johnson indicated he had no memory of anything that had happened prior to the officers asking him to put his arms up.

Johnson remans in jail on a $10,000 cash bond.

If convicted of the felony charges he faces more than 13 years in prison.

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