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 Milwaikee-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.
Marathon County sheriff’s officials aren’t apologizing for their tactics. Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Bean said officials expected to have to seize and remove tractors and wooden pallets to pay the judgment — hence the cadre of deputies. He also said what while Hoeppner was never considered dangerous, he was known to be argumentative.
“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.
Watch the video below of the Marathon County sheriff talking about the MARV.