Hearing held in Watton case
L’ANSE – Two men testified Tuesday in the preliminary hearing of the man they say claimed to be a federal marshal before holding them at gunpoint and robbing them.
Bernard Fish, 47, of Shawano, Wis., appeared in 97th District Court in L’Anse Tuesday.
Along with co-defendant Donavan Waupoose, 21, of Stephenson, Fish faces a sentence of up to life in prison for two counts of armed robbery. They are also charged with two counts of extortion, a 20-year felony; two counts of unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony; and impersonating a police officer to commit a crime, a four-year felony.
In August, the two alleged victims were at a house in Watton, where they had planned to start growing medical marijuana, as the house’s former residents had, they testified. They had been at the house for three weeks.
One of the alleged victims, who recently bought the house along with his father, was walking back from a shed to the house where he encountered Fish, he said.
Fish asked for a man named Adam and identified himself as a U.S. marshal, and told him Adam had informed them of an illegal grow operation.
“First he wanted to know where I’d put my firearm,” he said. “He’d yelled at me that he was a marshal and told me to get down on my knees.”
“What made you think he was a federal marshal?” asked Fish’s attorney, David Gemignani.
“The fact that he had a gun pointed in my face, and just his mannerisms,” which included hand signals, the man said .
Another man, who had come to help with the medical marijuana operation, was inside the house. Fish motioned to him to come outside.
“He had a revolver,” the second man testified. “He was pointing it at the house … he was pointing it at me … his last words to me were, ‘If you don’t come out of the house, I’m going to shoot your buddy.'”
The second witness said he had not believed Fish’s claims to be a marshal. When Waupoose pulled up in a truck, the alleged victim also began to doubt Fish’s story, he said.
After they were outside, the alleged victim said, Fish searched through the house for money and marijuana; he found only “shake,” or marijuana residue left over from the previous owners.
When the search was unsuccessful the alleged victim said Fish tried to ransom them – first for $10,000 each, then for the same amount combined. He was told to call his father and wire the amount to another person in Iron River.
Fish or Waupoose held them at gunpoint throughout, he said.
After the ransom attempt was unsuccessful, Fish left with the home owner’s cellphone, gun, passport, driver’s license and Illinois firearms card according to the alleged victim. The second alleged victim testified that before leaving, Fish made both men walk into the field behind the house.
“Honestly, I thought he was going to shoot us,” the homeowner said. It was more than three hours before they notified police of the robbery, however. The first alleged victim said he and his father had tried to get ahold of an attorney first.
“With the fact that we were going to be growing medical marijuana there and me having a firearm, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.
Fish’s preliminary hearing was adjourned until Dec. 17. His attorney, David Gemignani, requested more time to look over new evidence such as supplemental police reports, the 911 call and security footage from the house. He will be able to recall both witnesses if necessary.