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April 5, 2020

2/20/2020 7:30:00 AM
Complaint details case against Canadian man accused of striking vehicles in Lake Tomahawk
Bond increased by $15,000 following arrest for hotel disturbance
River News Staff

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 5 for a Canadian man accused of striking 13 parked vehicles in the Town of Lake Tomahawk Friday evening and one day later creating a disturbance at a Rhinelander hotel.

According to a criminal complaint filed Feb. 17, Robert Allan Johnson, 52, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, was arrested after police responded to a disturbance in downtown Lake Tomahawk. According to the responding deputy's report, officers arrived on scene to find a blue pickup truck that was missing a front tire and an SUV with a smashed left rear corner. Assembled members of the public were pointing at a man attempting to get into the passenger side of the pickup, the report states.

Upon observing the odor of intoxicants, and Johnson's general demeanor, the officer conducted field sobriety tests, the complaint states. After Johnson struggled with some of the tests, he was arrested on suspicion of operating while intoxicated.

"While enroute to the Oneida County jail, Johnson did not say much," the report states. "Johnson laughed on a couple occasions about what happened and continued to ask if he could pick up his truck the next day."

Because of his level of intoxication, the officer transported Johnson to the hospital where he refused a blood draw, the report notes. He was then transported to the jail. The next day he posted a cash bond set by Oneida County Circuit Judge Michael Bloom.

On Saturday evening, Rhinelander police were called to a local hotel at the behest of a clerk who wanted Johnson removed from the premises.

According to the officer's report of that incident, Johnson had been observed using profane language in the pool area in front of children and causing a disturbance. He was "very confrontational with everyone he spoke to," the report states.

The officers found Johnson in his room - the door had been propped open - with a liter of vodka on the table, the report continues.

He was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and bail jumping as his bond required no consumption of alcohol as well as a requirement that he refrain from committing additional crimes.

Johnson made his initial appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court Monday afternoon on the disorderly conduct and bail jumping charges as well as stack of traffic citations related to the damage to the vehicles in Lake Tomahawk the day before.

According to the complaint, 13 separate vehicles sustained damage.

In court Monday, assistant district attorney Mary Sowinski said she's still waiting for a "variety of reports related to additional crimes alleged to have been committed not yet been completed by sheriff's dept."

The state has "every expectation there will be multiple additional charges," she added, noting that a father had been placing his child into a car seat when Johnson's vehicle struck the vehicle, knocking the man and child to the sidewalk. The two were uninjured, she said.

Sowinski ended her remarks by asking that another hearing be scheduled in a few days after the additional reports are filed.

In his statement to the court, defense attorney Steve Lucareli explained that Johnson was in the area visiting his wife, a U.S. citizen who is staying in the area to care for a sick relative.

"We have a gentleman who has an addiction to alcohol," Lucareli said, adding that Johnson's son and former father-in-law came to Wisconsin after the events of the weekend and are willing to look after him and help him get treatment for his addiction. According to Lucareli, the cost of the treatment would be covered by either the Canadian government or Johnson's employer, who has vouched for his dependability as an employee. Lucareli also noted that there is a lien on Johnson's truck which, under the Canadian system, requires him to keep a substantial insurance policy on the vehicle. As the insurance coverage is believed to be approximately $1 million, Lucareli said indications are the policy should cover the damage done to the vehicles in Lake Tomahawk.

Ultimately, Lucareli argued the best place for Johnson is not jail in northern Wisconsin but his home in Thunder Bay.

"Being in lockdown will not do anything to address his needs," Lucareli argued, adding that the distance from Thunder Bay to Rhinelander is roughly equivalent to the distance between Rhinelander and the Chicago area. If allowed to return to Canada, Johnson can "get signed up for treatment, maintain his job and come back and answer to the charges down the road," he said.

After hearing from both attorneys, Bloom set a separate $15,000 cash bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for March 5. If Johnson is able to post bond again, he is prohibited from the premises of the hotel and may not consume alcohol.

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