A 75-year-old Wisconsin man is considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit after officials in Marathon County sent an armored military to collect fines that resulted from a property dispute.
Attorney Ryan Lister told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that the Marathon County Sheriff's Department overreacted when it sent 24 armed officers and the Marathon County Response Vehicle (MARV) to 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner's home earlier this month.
Lister said that his client contacted him as soon as he noticed the deputies arrive on the property, but roadblocks prevented the attorney from reaching the home until Hoeppner had been taken away in handcuffs.
"Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice...and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment" with overwhelming force, the attorney noted.
The town of Stettin had sued Hoeppner in 2008, saying that the use of his land where he restored antique tractors violated city ordinances. He was ordered to remove rubbish as part of a settlement, but a judge later ruled that he had not complied and fined Hoeppner $500-a-day.
After losing an appeal, Hoeppner was ordered to pay $80,000 to the city by Oct. 2,
Sheriff's Capt. Greg Bean defended the use of the MARV to collect civil fines, saying it saved time and money.
"I've been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up," Bean said. "People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now."
For his part, Hoeppner paid the $80,000 fine after being released so he could go to the bank. He said that he had spent his retirement fund -- more than $200,000 -- fighting the city.