Robert Stietz, 65, of Gratiot was found guilty of two out of a total six charges on Friday, March 14 after his jury was in deliberation for over seven hours, finally coming out with a verdict at approximately 12:43 a.m.
Stietz was on trial from Monday, March 10 though Friday, March 14 and was facing six charges related to an incident back in November 2012 when he got into an armed standoff with two Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wardens on the last day of that year’s gun deer season.
Stietz had originally been charged with two counts of resisting or obstructing an officer, two counts of intentionally pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer, one count of 1st degree recklessly endangering safety, and one count of endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon.
The jury found Stietz guilty of just two of the charges: one count of resisting or obstructing an officer and one count of intentionally pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer.
The resisting charge is a class A misdemeanor and carries a penalty of a fine up to the amount of $10,000 and/or up to nine months in prison, while the firearm charge is a class H felony and carries a penalty of a fine up to the amount of $10,000 and/or up to six years in prison.
A sentencing hearing for Stietz has been scheduled for May 28 at 11 a.m. in the Lafayette County Circuit Court before Judge James Beer, the judge who has been overseeing the case.
During the five-day trial the state, represented by Lafayette County District Attorney Kate Findley, called several witnesses to the stand including Wardens Joseph Frost and Nicholas Webster—the DNR wardens directly involved in the situation, as well as Lafayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Brett Broge and Lafayette County Chief Deputy John Reichling, both of whom responded to the situation after Warden Webster made a call to dispatch requesting backup.
Warden Frost was the first called to the stand with Warden Webster following. They both told a similar story to what they had outlined in their initial reports.
According to the wardens they were patrolling the Lamont area on Nov. 25 close to the time of the end of hunting hours when they came upon a vehicle they discovered to be owned by Robert Stietz that contained several hunting items. No one was in the immediate area, so the wardens began to patrol the parcel of land and entered Stietz’s property. They eventually came upon a person carrying a rifle, not wearing any blaze orange, who turned out to be Robert Stietz.
Both wardens claimed to identify themselves as conservation wardens and proceeded to ask Stietz if he had seen any deer and if his gun was loaded, to which they reported Stietz replied he had seen seven deer and that yes his rifle was loaded, but he was not hunting and was instead searching for trespassers.
At that point the wardens explained that they asked to examine Stietz’s rifle, to which he refused and Warden Frost took a step towards Stietz. The wardens then reported that Stietz swung the stock of his rifle into Warden Frost’s stomach and a tussle over the rifle began between the two, with Warden Webster putting a hand on the gun at some point to swing the muzzle away from himself.
Both wardens reported that Warden Frost ended up on the ground in possession of the rifle and that at that point Warden Webster reported he saw Stietz reaching for a handgun in his pocket when Warden Webster told him not to do it and drew his own service weapon and pointed it at Stietz who also drew his gun and pointed it at Warden Webster.
In the meantime Warden Frost said he had discarded the rifle and also drawn his service weapon and pointed it at Stietz.
From there the wardens reported that they continued to ask Stietz to lower his hand gun to which he would occasionally reply that he would not lower his weapon until the wardens lowered their weapons or would not reply at all.
At some point Warden Webster radioed dispatch asking for backup and eventually Deputy Brett Broge of the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene where the three parties still had their weapons up.
Broge approached the trio and assessed the situation then retreated to cover behind his squad, where he was shortly joined by the wardens.
At that point Stietz was said to have lowered his handgun so it pointed at the ground but refused to completely drop the weapon. Several law enforcement officials continued to ask Stietz to put down his weapon, to which he refused until Lafayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Gorham was able to convince Stietz to drop the weapon. After that Stietz was taken into custody.
Attorney Dean Strang served as representation for Stietz in the case and also called several of his own witnesses to the stand including Fabian Loeffelholz, a retired farmer who neighbors the Stietz’ property where the incident took place; Susan Stietz (Robert’s wife); and Robert Stietz himself.
However, before calling his own witnesses, Attorney Strang submitted a renewal of motions for dismissing the six charges, which were denied by Judge Beer. Strang then proceeded to call his witnesses.
When Robert Stietz took the stand, he told a somewhat different version of the events that took place on that November day than what the two wardens had reported, both in their initial reports and on the stand during the trial.
According to Stietz he had traveled to his land in Lamont that day to search for trespassers as he had been having trouble with trespassers entering his property, especially around deer hunting season, when he encountered two people dressed in orange he did not recognize on his property, who turned out to be Wardens Webster and Frost.
Stietz claimed when he first saw the two men he heard some mumbling that mentioned Green County and warden, but he could not make out the remainder of what they two had said as it was not very loud.
They then asked Stietz if he had seen any deer, to which he replied seven, and told the two men he was looking for trespassers. Stietz reported at that point, one of the wardens appeared to become agitated—“he could just tell.”
Stietz then explained that one of the wardens said, “give me your gun” and he replied no. At that point Stietz reported that one of the wardens grabbed onto the front of his coat and told the other warden to grab the gun.
According to Stietz there was then a tussle over the rifle between himself and both of the wardens, when he eventually lost his grip on the rifle and the two wardens continued to tussle over the gun themselves and both eventually stumbled and fell.
Stietz reported that he then saw Warden Webster tugging at his holster and he thought “My God! He’s going to shoot!” and he drew his own gun at the same time as Warden Webster.
Stietz explained that Warden Webster told him to put his gun down to which he replied: “You put your gun down and I’ll put mine down.”
“The wardens drew on me first,” said Stietz. “I wasn’t doing nothing wrong.”
Stietz said that he was relieved when he heard Warden Webster call for back-up, because he didn’t know for sure that they were really wardens until that point, claiming he never saw any credentials.
When Deputy Broge arrived Stietz said he felt relief, but would still not completely drop the gun, because the wardens would still not lower theirs.
“When the sheriff’s got there I felt there would be witnesses and felt a lot more safer,” said Stietz.