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October 6, 2022

7/8/2022 7:30:00 AM
Bond modified for man accused of threatening county employee
By River News Staff

A 50-year-old Lake Tomahawk man accused of making "terrorist threats" toward an employee of the Department of Social Services had his bond modified following a preliminary hearing Monday morning in Oneida County Circuit Court.

After hearing testimony from a county deputy, circuit judge Mike Bloom bound Ryan Mielkie over for further proceedings and modified his bond from $5,000 cash to a $10,000 signature bond.

Specific conditions were attached to the signature bond including no intoxicants, no taverns and no possession of firearms. As a convicted felon, Mielkie has a standing prohibition against possessing firearms. In addition, he may not go onto any state or federal office, except for the Veterans Administration, and may not go onto any public place unless for medical care, food, shelter or clothing.

He is also prohibited from contacting employees of the Oneida County Department of Social Services and may not be on the premises of the courthouse unless he has a scheduled court appearance.

According to the deputy's testimony, an investigation commenced in early June after a Social Services employee reported that when speaking to Mielkie via telephone regarding the denial of benefits, Mielkie became agitated and threatened harm.

According to the deputy's testimony, "Mielkie stated that he would do what he was trained to do and that was to kill and he would kill them all."

The officer also described how law enforcement tracked Mielkie to a hotel in Minocqua. He noted that police saw what they believed to be a firearm in Mielkie's vehicle, however the item in question turned out to be a pellet rifle. In addition, unmarked pills found on his person were determined to be of the "over the counter" variety. What the officer described as a "verbal altercation" also took place during the arrest, according to the testimony.

During cross-examination, defense counsel Brian Bennett asked the officer if Mielkie was known to law enforcement. When the officer confirmed that the defendant had made prior threats, Bennett noted that criminal charges were not filed in connection with the alleged prior threats. He also attempted to ask the officer whether he thought the alleged previous threats were "true" threats.

After district attorney Mike Schiek objected, Bennett cited the relevant jury instructions which state that the threat must be a true threat.

"People say things all the time, 'I'm going to kill him,' 'Oh god, if that happens, I would kill myself,' people say these things all the time. However, I think this time, because it happened to be a government agency and given the current climate regarding government agents including social workers, deputies and the like, I think the matter was somewhat overblown," Bennett argued.

Bloom agreed the question of whether it was a true threat is relevant, but found that the witness's take on that question is not appropriate "for purposes of a preliminary hearing".

Later, Bennett argued the state had not met its burden which is to show that a felony was committed and the defendant committed it.

"What's at the core of this entire case here is whether or not the threat that's alleged to have been made by Mr. Mielkie is a true threat or not. Is it a credible threat? Oftentimes in the media we're hearing that individuals who are doing atrocious, horrific acts were in fact known to law enforcement weeks, months, years in advance as people who were a problem," he said, adding that Mielkie lives by himself in a trailer on a vacant lot and "does not really have the means or the reputation for committing some kind of atrocity...."

He went on to characterize Mielkie's behavior as "somebody spouting off on a phone call" and called the charge a government overreaction.

Given an opportunity to respond, Schiek conceded "this is a tough case."

"I don't know that we have a law that covers this type of behavior," he added.

In response to Bennett's remarks about "the current climate" in the U.S. with respect to mass shootings, he said the conundrum is "how do you ever know if it's true threat?"

He went on to note that Mielkie made specific statements, while in an agitated state, about killing people.

"That seems to me to be a threat to do bodily harm and that he intended to cause some fear or panic as required by the statute," he added, noting that the statute indicates it is not necessary that the person making the threat has an ability to carry it out.

After hearing both arguments, Bloom stated it will be "a relatively rigorous task" for the state to connect all of the required dots, should the case go to trial, but noted the state had met its burden for the purposes of a preliminary hearing.

He also noted the "current climate" as referenced by Bennett, "increases the risk of a single phone call between a single individual and a single Social Services employee" resulting in public panic or fear.

He then offered Bennett an opportunity to address the issue of bond. Bennett said Mielkie has a history of mental health and pain issues that have not been fully addressed and suggested he would remain on his property if released on a signature bond.

Schiek noted that he still "has concerns" but left the matter of bond modification to the court's discretion.

Bloom responded by ordering the $10,000 signature bond with the specific conditions listed above.

"Please be mindful of your bond conditions," Bloom advised the defendant. To which, Mielkie responded, "Not a problem, sir."

Arraignment is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1.

The terrorist threat charge carries a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 years in prison.

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