Heidel applying for veterans court for OWI charge
By Press Times Staff
GREEN BAY – Hobart Village President Rich Heidel is applying to veterans court for his third OWI charge.
Heidel was arrested for an alleged OWI early Feb. 1.
Northeast Wisconsin Veterans Treatment Court assists veterans who accept responsibility for felony or misdemeanor offenses committed within a group of counties in northeast Wisconsin.
Heidel faces a misdemeanor charge.
The program creates a team involving a circuit court judge, representatives of the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefit Administration, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, veterans service organizations, Veterans Affairs and others.
Northeast Wisconsin Veterans Treatment Court also offers assistance with treatment, rehabilitation, employment and housing.
Heidel, 66, served 21 combined years of active and reserve duty in the U.S. Army.
He has been village president since September 2003 and called Hobart home since 1989.
Heidel has previous OWI charges from July 6, 1997, and Nov. 8, 2005. He was found guilty both times.
In 2005, Heidel had his license suspended for 14 months, paid $1,000 to the court, was sentenced to 20 days in jail, completed an alcohol assessment and attended a drunk driving impact panel.
According to the March 20 criminal complaint, Heidel was found in his vehicle in the ditch at the intersection of Hillcrest Road and Riverdale Drive, on the border between Howard and Hobart.
He and his vehicle were in the west ditch facing oncoming traffic.
The officer who responded wrote Heidel was slurring his speech and his breath smelled of intoxicants.
County Rescue Services was dispatched to assess Heidel for any possible medical conditions.
The officer wrote that while he and County Rescue personnel were escorting Heidel to the ambulance, Heidel needed to be held up.
Once in the ambulance, Heidel admitted that he had a beer at a downtown Green Bay tavern, but he stopped drinking 40 minutes ago.
Heidel was then taken to St. Mary’s Hospital for field sobriety tests, because they could not be conducted at the scene due to a temperature of -10.
Another officer on the scene reported Heidel nearly lost his balance during the first field sobriety test.
The same officer reported having difficulty maintaining the stimulus pen test at the required distance of 12-15 inches because of Heidel’s “constant and exaggerated swaying.”
Two officers then had to catch Heidel as he lost his balance again, the officer reported.
He lost his balance multiple other times after that and the officer eventually stopped the sobriety tests, because he feared Heidel could not complete them safely.
Court records indicate he had a .211 alcohol concentration. The legal limit is .08.
Penalties for a third OWI include 45 days to one year in jail, license revocation for two to three years and absolute sobriety for one to three years.
On March 5, the Hobart village board passed an ordinance that amended village code to ensure the continuation of day-to-day municipal operations in absence of the village president.
“When the president has been unavailable to sign legal documents, bills and invoices, a board member has done so in the past, without clear municipal code or statutory authority,” Aaron Kramer, village administrator said in February. “The proposed changes to the existing ordinance would address these issues, and formally codify the procedures.”
On March 19, Trustee Dave Dillenburg was selected to sign documents in the event Heidel is absent.
Heidel released the following statement to The Press Times.
“As a 21-year veteran, I believe I qualify and would be interested in participating in the Veterans Treatment Court. As I understand it, this court is part of the Brown County circuit court system and, generally, sentences individuals as they would be otherwise. However, this court also provides mentors, who are themselves veterans and assist the sentenced in their probationary activities and recovery. Of interest to me is the possibility of becoming a mentor myself at a later appropriate point in time. This fits right in with, what’s called, 12th Step work, i.e. service work by the recovering alcoholic in helping other active alcoholics. Alcoholics are never cured; they must remain in recovery in order to enjoy a long, natural life. Service work is just one tool that helps both the recovering alcoholic as well as the active alcoholic who wants recovery. This service work – and the associated 12-step program – is no different for a recovering alcoholic than for a diabetic who must take insulin in order to live, or a heart patient who must take medication for the rest of his life.”
Heidel also said he has no plans to step down from his role as village president.
“This is no different than my plan to continue to fulfill the other roles I have in life. My disease is not a Hobart issue, nor a church issue, nor a taxpayers’ issue, nor a political party issue, etc. My disease is my issue and I own it. Hobart constituents have known for more than 10 years that I am an alcoholic and I have always been open and honest about it. Until most recently, I had almost 14 years of sobriety and am now already on my next stretch, which must last the rest of my life. I’ve always seen my role as that of a public servant and have performed as such… I plan to continue to serve, and do so successfully, as I have now for 16 consecutive years.”