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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — After allegedly breaking into the Outhouse Bar, a 31-year-old Bloomer man who attempted to elude police officers in Colfax in early March by jumping into the Red Cedar River has failed to appear in court for an arraignment hearing.
Joshua A.Whitley is charged in Dunn County with one felony count of burglary and misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer, theft and disorderly conduct.
An arraignment hearing was scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court December 17 before Judge James Peterson at 2:30 p.m.
Since March, Whitley has failed to appear for court a number of times, and this was the third time he failed to appear for an arraignment hearing. At one point, Whitley was reported to have been in a jail in Utah.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the court’s business is conducted by defendants and attorneys either appearing for court using the online platform Zoom or by telephone.
Whitley called in to the court at 2:30 p.m., but his attorney, Robert Thorson, was double booked with another hearing, and Whitley’s arraignment hearing was rescheduled for 4 p.m.
Whitley told Judge Peterson he would probably be able to call back at 4 p.m.
At 4 p.m., Whitley did not contact the court, and other hearings were conducted in the interim. When the Whitley case was called at 4:27 p.m., Whitley still had not contacted the court.
Thorson said he has had no contact with Whitley since being assigned as his attorney.
Since March, two other attorneys have been assigned to Whitley’s case but both withdrew when Whitley could not be located.
Thorson was assigned as Whitley’s attorney on December 15.
Whitley has had a number of failures to appear in court, although he did call earlier in the day, said Andrea Nodolf, Dunn County district attorney.
Nodolf suggested that perhaps another court hearing could be scheduled, and Judge Peterson agreed.
An arraignment hearing is now scheduled for February 16 at 3:15 p.m.
During an arraignment hearing, a defendant is given the opportunity to enter a plea of not guilty, guilty or no contest.
If Whitley fails to appear at the February hearing, a warrant will be issued for his arrest, Judge Peterson said.
After failing to show up in Dunn County Circuit Court for hearings after the preliminary hearing March 13, Whitley appeared in court by telephone September 9 before Judge Peterson.
Judge Peterson had issued a bench warrant for Whitley on June 8 and had ordered the $200 cash bail forfeited when Whitley failed to show up for a previously-scheduled arraignment hearing.
During an initial appearance in Dunn County Circuit Court March 9, Judge Peterson set bail at $500 cash and ordered Whitley to have no contact with Cenex/Synergy Cooperative or the Outhouse Bar in Colfax. The cash bail was amended to $200 March 13.
During the September 9 hearing, Whitley told the court that he is in drug and alcohol treatment, that he has completed the in-patient part of the treatment but that he is still in the out-patient portion of the treatment.
On the day of an August 24 hearing when he did not show up for court, Whitley said he was at a recovery treatment center. He also told the court he had only recently started to work full time.
Whitley was scheduled for an arraignment hearing November 23 at 10 a.m., but failed to appear for court and failed to contact the court, and Judge Peterson issued a warrant for Whitley’s arrest.
During the November 23 hearing, Dunn County Assistant District Attorney Lucas Arras reminded the court that at the time of the September hearing, Whitley had been in jail in Utah.
At 1:46 p.m. November 23, Whitley contacted the court, and Judge Peterson quashed the warrant and reinstated Whitley’s cash bail of $150.
After Whitley failed to show up for several court hearings, the $200 cash bail was forfeited during a hearing August 24, and Judge Rod Smeltzer set a cash bail of $150 for Whitley September 9.
Whitley told the court November 23 he did not have an attorney and that he does not have an address to receive mail.
Judge Peterson noted that the court had received a notification of a change of address for Whitley on October 8 from his former Bloomer address to the Sojourner House in Eau Claire.
Sojourner House is a homeless shelter.
The judge said a notice of the November 23 hearing had been mailed out to Whitley and that he could have appeared in court by Zoom or by telephone.
There was no explanation, as of the November 23 hearing, as to how Whitley had gone from a jail in Utah to Sojourner House in Eau Claire.
According to the criminal complaint, on the morning of March 7, Dunn County deputies responded to the Outhouse Bar on Main Street in Colfax at around 7:42 a.m. for a report of a burglary in progress that had been interrupted.
Food wrappers and a soft drink cup discovered at the bar appeared to have come from Cenex/Synergy Cooperative in Colfax.
One of the deputies made contact with Cenex, and employees confirmed the food and drink items had come from there and said the suspect had left without paying for the items. The employees said they had security video footage of the suspect and a second man who entered and left with him.
After the Dunn County deputies had cleared the bar and had talked to the bar manager, an anonymous caller reported a man had entered some pine trees and had ran northbound across a field near 231 West Railroad Avenue in Colfax.
Deputies located footprints in the snow behind a shed at the address and followed the tracks through some fields and along wood lines.
Another deputy approached from the west, around a bend in the river from the other deputies, and saw a man standing on the river bank. When the man saw the officers, he went into the river, the complaint states.
According to a report from Colfax Police Chief William Anderson, Dunn County deputies also had begun to track the man with a snowmobile. When the deputies were closing in on the man’s location, and as Colfax officers arrived, the man jumped into the river and began swimming and wading across.
Colfax police officers responded to the other side of the river on 910th Avenue, west of Felland Park, along with an officer from the Wisconsin State Patrol.
When the man came out of the river, with the combined effort of the State Trooper, the Colfax police officers and the Dunn County deputies, he was taken into custody, Police Chief Anderson said.
Whitley initially gave false names to the police officers.
Colfax Police Officer Jacob Pake and Police Chief Anderson drove to the Dunn County Jail, and on the way to Menomonie, the man told the officers his name was David Seymour, with the same date of birth in 1971 as he had given with the other name.
Jail staff and the Colfax officers attempted numerous times to try to identify the man, but he continued to give the same two names.
Police Chief Anderson contacted the Chippewa County Jail, which was able to send a picture of a Joshua A.Whitley. Police Chief Anderson and Officer Pake were able to confirm that Whitley was the man in custody, according to the complaint.