Marathon County, Wisconsin used “military style” tactics and deployed a SWAT team to collect a debt from an elderly man. Roger Hoeppner, 75, has been in a long court battle with his town over land use and $86,000 in fines imposed for work items “strewn across” his own property.
Roger Hoeppner retired from a paper factory and now runs a small pallet and tractor repair business on his 20 acres. Screegrabs from a YouTube video taken on the Marathon County, Wisconsin property show several piles of neatly stacked wood pallets by a stand of trees which are visible from the road. A local court opted to levy a $500-per-day fine against Hoeppner in 2013 to convince him to comply with property clean-up orders.
The town of Stettin was granted a writ of execution to collect the $86,000 fine from the elderly man and then the Marathon County SWAT team made its move. A total of 24 armed law enforcement officers and an armored vehicle arrived on Roger Hoeppner’s property on October 2. The Marathon Count Response Vehicle – a MARV, rolled onto the property and reportedly frightened Mrs. Hoeppner so badly she had to be hospitalized.
Marathon County Sheriff’s Office Captain Greg Bean argued that the military style deployment of an armored vehicle actually promotes safety and saves times and money as well. “I’ve been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up,” Captain Bean said. While those shocked by the use of a SWAT team to collect a fine tend to agree that ending a potentially violent standoff with such force could be necessary, they still voice doubt that 24 armed agents were necessary to get a check from one old man.
Roger Hoeppner’s attorney Ryan Lister chastised the law enforcement decisions by Marathon County, Wisconsin in the case. “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,” Lister said.
Hoeppner told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he may perhaps have been “hostile” over the huge fine, but added that $86,000 is “enough to shock most men, and they wanted it now, today,” the Marathon County senior citizen added. The small business owner maintains that officials in the town of Stettin have waged a “vendetta against him. Hoeppner has reportedly spent his all of his retirement savings, $200,00, attempting to fight the land use restrictions.
What do you think about the military style tactics used in Marathon County, Wisconsin property rights case?