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Competency exam ordered after Kruger pleads
Pleas of not guilty by mental disease entered on Grant County charges
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A competency examination has been ordered for the man who led Grant and Iowa county authorities on the Sept. 10 chase between Cassville and Blue Mounds.

The examination was ordered after James Kruger, 36, Madison, pleaded not guilty by mental disease or defect to 16 Grant County charges in a four-minute arraignment Thursday.

Kruger looked calm seated next to his attorney, Public Defender Rose Oliveto, as she asked for a competency and mental health review of Kruger, who is charged with eight offenses, in addition to eight matching felony bail jumping charges.
Oliveto asked for the competency and mental health evaluations to be done in conjunction with one another, as it would save time. Oliveto said she would prefer the reviews be done with Dr. Brad Smith, and be handled as inpatient review as there were issues with Kruger’s medication at the Iowa County Jail, where he is currently housed.

Because of the time needed for the review, a status hearing was scheduled to take place Dec. 2. More discussion is expected then on motions to dismiss and a motion for a change of venue for case. A change of venue is often asked for in a high-profile case, and the events surrounding Kruger’s manhunt were covered by every news organization in the region.

Kruger entered the pleas on eight counts of felony bail jumping, and one count each of fleeing or eluding an officer, armed robbery, strangulation and suffocation, discharging a firearm at or toward a person, taking hostages and releasing without bodily harm, intentionally pointing a firearm at a person, and misdemeanor battery.

Kruger also faces nine Iowa County counts of felony bail jumping, three counts of fleeing or eluding an officer, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of misdemeanor bail jumping, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and one count each of taking and driving a vehicle without consent, driving or operating a vehicle without consent, carrying a concealed weapon, and theft of movable property of up to $2,500.

Kruger also faces four Iowa County traffic charges — driving the wrong way on a divided highway, failure to stop at a stop sign, reckless driving and first-offense operating with a restricted controlled substance.

Kruger was indicted by a federal grand jury Sept. 18 on a charge of felon possession of a handgun, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Kruger’s next federal court date has not been scheduled yet.

Kruger’s next Iowa County court date is a status conference scheduled for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. Kruger also has a Grant County status conference scheduled for Dec. 2 at 11 a.m.

Kruger led law enforcement officers from four different counties on an extended search and high speed chase Sept. 10, initially in connection with a stabbing in Madison Sept. 9. No charges have been filed in connection with the stabbing, according to court records.

Kruger is accused of beating and robbing his uncle in Cassville, taking a man hostage and stealing his truck, stealing another vehicle after his hostage escaped in Dodgeville, and leading authorities on a chase, often at high speeds, on U.S. 18 in Grant and Iowa counties before he was stopped near Blue Mounds.

Kruger was free on a $500 signature bond Sept. 4 after he was charged on a Dane County felony eluding charge Aug. 28. Kruger pleaded not guilty to that charge Oct. 21. He is scheduled to go on trial in Dane County Circuit Court Dec. 18, preceded by a pretrial conference Nov. 21 at 8:45 a.m.

Kruger is in the Iowa County jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bond.