This time, the police put out an incident report, albeit one flagging it as a mere "robbery." There was even a four-sentence item about it on the Cap Times' website.
But what happened to Jon Young, 23, in downtown Madison on Sept. 15 is far more disturbing than the MPD release or news brief conveyed.
At about 8:30 p.m., the UW-Madison engineering student was walking past James Madison Park when he passed a group of young males. One asked him for a cigarette. He said he didn't smoke. That was all it took.
One of the youths punched him in the face. Then the one who'd asked for the cigarette "sucker-punched me from behind," says Young, who agreed to talk to Isthmus but did not call the incident to the paper's attention. He fell to the ground. The youths began pummeling and kicking him. "I was getting hit in every direction."
The attackers tried taking Young's backpack, but he resisted. Eventually, they gave up and fled.
Police soon after stopped a group of six youths and correctly suspected they had a role in the assault. The lads, all 15 and 16 years old and students at La Follette High, were brought in for questioning, according to a police report obtained by Isthmus. They admitted their involvement in the assault, committed in a spirit of nihilistic thuggery straight out of A Clockwork Orange.
"I guess I just went off," one of the teens told police, explaining why he repeatedly hit a stranger with a closed fist. "Everyone was kicking him, basically," said another, who claimed to be the lone exception. "They were just stomping and kicking him," said a third, who made the same claim. And a fourth, asked by police if the victim did anything to provoke the attack, said he "just looked at us wrong."
Police subsequently heard from a 34-year-old Madison man who encountered the same youths on the same night. He was also asked for a cigarette and said he didn't smoke.
"Man, you don't have to answer like a bitch," one of the teens responded. "You better get in the house, faggot, or we're going to roll you." The aggressor started to advance toward the man, but his friends called him off. Their mamas would be so proud.
Isthmus has recently reported on two incidents in which Madison police failed to inform the public of serious beatings ("Brutal Attack Kept Under Wraps," 9/5/08, and "Cops Kept Mum About Another Beating," 9/19/08). In one, a 50-year-old man walking to work was left with a collapsed lung and other injuries by a group of teens. In the other, two men were beaten unconscious, one into a temporary coma.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray this week told Isthmus these communication breakdowns should not have occurred. And while maintaining that, "for the most part, we do a pretty good job of getting information out," he said the department recognized that more needed to be done.
The MPD, says Wray, is now in the process of working out ways to provide a "snapshot" of day-to-day case information, either through a log of 911 calls or a "daily incident log" of all matters assigned a case number. These could then be used by the media and public as "a basis for inquiry."
Young, who was later able to identify at least one of his assailants, was left with a black eye, scraped knees and bumps on the head. He's agreed to press charges, out of a concern for public safety: "With that kind of mentality, they'll likely do it again." The six youths were tentatively charged, variously, with battery, attempted robbery and being party to a crime, and released.
MPD officials were unable to provide information on the status of this case, or whether the culprits were being eyed for possible ties to similar attacks, including the one on the 50-year-old man. Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard says the cases were referred to his office's juvenile unit on Sept. 18 and "remain under review." Maybe the lads will have time to roll a few more strangers before their fun is interrupted.
Note: On Thursday, Oct. 2, after this article was published, MPD Capt. Carl Gloede contacted Isthmus regarding possible links between the assault on Sept. 15 and the beating that took place on Aug. 5: "East District advises they have staff looking at the two cases. Preliminarily, there are some differences that they have found that may indicate the cases are not related."
Help for beating victim
Several readers, including Justice Department spokesperson Bill Cosh, have contacted Isthmus in response to its report (referenced above) about the 50-year-old Madison man left with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills after being beaten by a gang of young hoodlums in mid-August. They wanted to suggest - and Cosh to confirm - that the man can get help through the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program.
Program claims specialist Tim Greenya, speaking in general, says the per-crime compensation cap is $10,000 a year, or $40,000 overall. If medical expenses exceed these amounts, the program would first reimburse the victim for out-of-pocket costs and lost wages, then pay medical providers whatever remains of the $10,000 annual sum. But, notes Greenya, "If they accept the money, they can't collect any balances from the victim."
So that's good news. The victim will not be socked for these costs. The costs will be absorbed by taxpayers and hospital users.
Send in your songs
The city of Madison is still spinning its wheels on plans to replace its insidious phone-system hold music with local tunes (See "Madison Seeks MOH-Better [Music]," 9/21/08).
Connie Phair, executive assistant to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, has gotten a template release letter from the City Attorney's Office. She worries that if she sends it to select musicians, she may offend the ones not asked. If she makes the opportunity public, she runs the risk of "having everyone and their dog contact me."
Phair, unmoved by how truly irritating the city's current hold music is, has been frittering away her time on other things, like the city budget, due Oct. 7. So let's all help her out: The permission form is available here (PDF). Fill it out and send it to Phair at the mayor's office, with a CD of your songs.
Each artists may submit up to five songs. They don't have to be about Madison, but the artists must be local. And please: No crap. Garbage maybe (music insider joke).
Mark your calendars
The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council will celebrate its 30th anniversary with an event at the UW-Madison. Media advocate Peter Fox will talk about the council's founding. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson will speak on the importance of open government to Wisconsin. State Rep. Marlin Schneider and the council president, a.k.a. the guy who writes Isthmus' popular Watchdog column, will hold a mini-debate on online court records. Musical troubadour Peter Leidy will perform "The Open Records Blues." And there will be cake.
The event is on Monday, Oct. 13, in the Nafziger Conference Room in Vilas Hall, 4-5:30 p.m. It's free and (pun intended) open to the public.