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Accused owl thieves will go to trial

Accused owl thieves Matthew R. Kuhlemeyer and Dilan S. White, both 18 and of Dousman, appeared in Waukesha County Circuit Court Monday afternoon and learned that prosecutors are seeking $22,000 in restitution on behalf of the Wildlife in Need Center in Ottawa.

"That's a problem," White's defense attorney Paul Bucher told the judge. Bucher said he wanted to resolve the issue with his client through a plea, but when he saw the proposed restitution figure, "I fell off my chair."

Calling the request "absurd", Bucher told the judge that White could not, in good faith, make a plea as to the charges against him.

The two men were charged with burglary and criminal damage to property for allegedly stealing the now infamous great horned owl, Dakota, last November from his outdoor enclosure.

Dakota subsequently escaped his alleged captors and flew into the woods. He was found weeks later on a Dousman couple's porch in poor health.

The Wildlife in Need Center is seeking restitution as compensation for a variety of reasons, including for the time volunteers spent searching for the owl.

Bucher sought to have the restitution issue cleared up before going to trial, but Judge William Domina said the court must deal with any restitution during a sentencing hearing.

Domina did, however, order the two parties to meet and confer on the restitution issue for at least one hour.

As a result of today's hearing, which saw a large turnout of Wildlife in Need Center supporters as well as family members of the defendants, the case will now go to a joint trial in October. A jury status hearing was scheduled for September 27, at 8:30 a.m. The trial begins on October 2, at 8:15 a.m.

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