While several cases on the state level are still pending, including a trial scheduled in Grant County for mid-November, James Kruger has found out his fate on the federal level Tuesday.
The sentence from U.S. District Judge William M. Conley on two counts of felon firearm possession includes 15 years in federal prison for Kruger, with fines and restitution of more than $15,000.
“This sentence protects the public by ensuring that James Kruger, a very dangerous man, will remain behind bars for a long time,” said John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Kruger pleaded guilty to the federal charges on July 2 in return for dismissal of one of the three felony gun possession charges Kruger had against him. The deal did not contain any agreement of sentencing for the charges.
Kruger had been charged for a series of events that took place in September 2013 after he was released from the Dane County Jail.
Late on Sept. 9, Kruger allegedly stabbed a man at his home in Madison. The next day, Kruger made his way to Cassville to his uncle’s home, threatening him and stealing money, as well as three guns.
After assaulting his uncle, Kruger shot toward a neighbor and then eventually ended up at the Riedl farm, where he kidnapped Walter Riedl, driving his truck to Dodgeville. Riedl made an escape at a taxidermy shop.
Kruger allegedly stole another vehicle, and crashed the car trying to avoid authorities on U.S. 151.
During the sentencing phase, Conley received a letter from Kruger’s father, Gale, who asked for a lesser sentence due to James’ continued fight with mental illness.
“As a parent I did not ask for my son, James, to be born with a chemical imbalance that will affect him his entire life but he was,” Gale said in his letter. Gale said that for James to normalize his life, he has had to take drugs, but times he was on drugs he thought he didn’t need them anymore, which caused him to stop, leading to mental breakdowns. Other times, Gale said, James self-medicated with other drugs, which caused more problems.
“Our society tends to accept those who are born with physical disabilities but tend to be much less tolerant to those who have emotional problems,” Gale wrote to the judge. He said that with emotional problems, one idea is to lock them up, ignoring dealing with their problems.
James’ aunt, Jacquelyn Strahl, and uncle, Bob Nicholson, wrote a joint letter, noting that one of the problems was that Dane County, which held Kruger before releasing him before his rampage, did not make sure he was taking his medication.
“Bottom line, none of this would have occurred if Dane County Courts Assistant D.A. wouldn’t have released him on Labor Day weekend 2013 without his medication,” the letter said. “He had been held for five days in a horrible manic state, in isolation, with no psych evaluation or medications, when they knew he had a valid prescription.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim O’Shea argued that Kruger needed to receive a strict sentence, noting that one of his hostage victims constantly worries about Kruger, even with him in jail currently, while the uncle Kruger assaulted felt James was wildly dangerous when not on medication.
Kruger’s competence to take part in court hearings has been a long struggle at both the federal and state level. Several times in the past two years Kruger had been deemed incompetent for his own defense because he refused to stay on medication. O’Shea pointed to the on again/off again issue as a reason the public needed to be protected from Kruger.
Kruger’s federal sentence will run concurrent to any sentence he receives in the cases he still has pending in Grant, Iowa, and Dane counties.
Kruger faces eight Grant County charges 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 pleaded not guilty by mental disease or defect to the charges in October 2013.
Kruger’s Grant County trial has been scheduled for Nov. 16–25, with a status conference Oct. 7, according to court records.
Kruger 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. Most of the charges include enhanced repeater penalties, as well as enhanced penalties for use of a dangerous weapon.
A status conference on the Iowa County charges is scheduled for Oct. 19.
Kruger also faces a Dane County charge of fleeing or eluding an officer for an incident in August 2013, and charges of felon possession of a firearm, first-degree recklessly endangering safety and felony bail jumping for the alleged Madison stabbing. A status conference on those charges is scheduled for today.