HURLEY, Wisconsin — A woman accused of helping lead a protest that disrupted workers at a mining rig in northern Wisconsin has been sentenced to nine months in jail, a stiffer sentence than recommended by prosecutors.
Katie Kloth, 27, of Weston, was accused of being among 20 people at a rally where protesters threw cans and water bottles at workers to try to intimidate them as they drilled exploratory holes in remote Iron County in 2013. Mining has been controversial in the area, where a Florida-based company is pursuing what could be the world's longest open-pit mine.
Kloth pleaded no contest to robbery and misdemeanor party to the crime of criminal damage to property, according to Daily Herald Media (http://wdhne.ws/1CDca5G ). She faced maximum penalties of more than 15 years in prison and fines of $60,000.
Authorities allege that Kloth appeared to be the protest leader and became enraged when she saw Ideal Drilling Co. employee Stacy Saari videotaping the protest. Kloth pulled the camera from Saari, and a male protester grabbed a cellphone from Saari's back pocket.
Many of the protesters then climbed over the drilling equipment, damaged some of its controls, began throwing shovels, and swore at and verbally threatened the workers during the hour-long incident. The protesters — many wearing bandanas covering their faces — fled just before police arrived at the remote site.
Iron County Judge Douglas Fox ordered the jail time, along with five years of probation and restitution of $2,400, during a hearing on Wednesday. Saari said damage to the camera and drilling equipment totaled $2,400.
County District Attorney Marty Lipske said he recommended four years of probation, and that a probation-only sentence isn't that uncommon for a first-time offender who is in her 20s.
Mining in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron counties has been controversial since GTAC purchased mineral rights to 21,000 acres in the region in 2011. The Florida-based company has been pursuing what could be the world's longest open pit mine — 4.5 miles long by a half-mile wide by 1,000 feet deep — since the Legislature rewrote mining laws in 2013.
Information from: Wausau Daily Herald Media, http://www.wausaudailyherald.com
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