An Illinois woman appeared Thursday in Columbia County Circuit Court, representing herself in a preliminary hearing for two cases, one involving a fight at a McDonald’s in Poynette and the second centering on illegal use of a dump truck.
Patricia Copus, 45, of Wacoda, Illinois, appeared before Judge W. Andrew Voigt charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and felony bail jumping, stemming from a Nov. 8 incident and misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle without consent and obstructing an officer with one count of felony bail jumping from an incident Nov. 21.
The court first addressed the earlier accusation in which Copus had allegedly been driving a car with her son, Austan Bardell, 19, of Portage and Erik Hedberg, 19, of St. Croix Falls, Illinois. Their car had been travelling east on Interstate-90 when they came in contact with another vehicle. Although parties have disagreed as to who started the incident, according to the criminal complaint, both sides agreed that yelling and offensive gestures were exchanged.
The other car exited the interstate and parked at the McDonald’s at Highway CS, when Copus allegedly pulled up behind the other vehicle blocking it in. A fight between the two parties ensued and at one point Bardell sprayed a man with pepper spray. Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Daniel Medina who was dispatched to the scene was called by District Attorney Jane Kohlwey to testify in Thursday’s preliminary hearings.After Medina finished testifying, Copus was asked if she had any witnesses to call.
“Can I call Jane (Kohlwey) to the stand?” Copus asked, “because I would love to do that.”
“No,” replied Voigt.”That is not an option.”
“Sure,” said Copus turning to look at the defendants, attorneys, law enforcement and press in the room, commenting that she didn’t remember any of the officers in the room as being present at the incident.
“Austan Bardell or Erik Hedberg I would like to call if I could.”
“They are not present in the courtroom and to the best of my knowledge have not been subpoenaed,” said Kohlwey.
“Which means that is not an option,” Voigt clarified.
“So can I subpoena them?” Copus asked.
“It’s a little late for that,” said Voigt.
“Because I’ve been in the jail for, like, 17 days,” said Copus. “It has been a little rough, being in the hole, to even get papers and using a golf pencil.”
When Voigt explained the ramifications of Copus choosing to testify herself and the likelihood of statements being used in future prosecution, she decided against taking the stand herself and the hearing went on to arguments.
Kohlwey explained that from a still-open 2016 felony case charging strangulation, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, Copus was not to have contact with Hedberg and was found in contact with him at the Dekorra incident.
Copus accused Kohlwey of being involved in corrupt activity 10 years earlier when Voigt cut her off asking how it pertained to the case.
“It has a lot to do with the jumping bail, or bail jumping as you call it in Wisconsin,” said Copus, “because the reason I’m with Mr. Hedberg and Austan is that I don’t go anywhere without two witnesses. I will not go anywhere in Columbia County because of the lies of Jane Kohlwey previous to the ’95 case.”
After Copus took a few minutes to look at the official information document and have it read in court, Voigt asked for any last comments or motion requests from Copus, at which point she asked if there would be any conflict of interest between the parties in the courtroom.
“Do you all get paid from the same place that Jane gets paid and the public defender get paid — do you get your paychecks from the same place?” asked Copus. “I’m just curious.”
“At its most basic level, the State of Wisconsin is paying all of us,” said Voigt. “It is my understanding that there are separate budgetary provisions for each of those entities and it by definition cannot be a conflict of interest, because if it was, the system would collapse on itself.”
“Right,” said Copus. “I was just wondering. It would collapse. That’s crazy.”
Addressing the more recent case, Deputy Chad Steinle was called to testify and said he was dispatched to assist the State Patrol on Nov. 21, where on Interstate-90 a dump truck had hit a guard rail and stopped in the middle of the road. The truck was found at the Arlington All Stop Mobile, where officers also viewed security footage of Copus and Hedberg getting out of the truck.
Voigt found probable cause and both cases were set to be scheduled for separate trials. The court also entered a plea of not-guilty for Bardell with a jury trial to be scheduled.
Hedberg is scheduled to appear for a Jan. 11 preliminary hearing.