Preliminary hearing scheduled in Beaton case

Bond set at $10,000 cash
Warren Bluhm
Oconto County Times Herald Editor

OCONTO — The attorney for James Beaton said during a Feb. 17 court appearance that a number of factors cast doubt on the strength of the state’s case against the former Gillett mayor.

Beaton, 39, of Appleton, is charged with 13 counts of theft in a business setting in connection with money he allegedly misappropriated for his own use while managing Legacy Funeral Chapels, now known by its original name of Kuehl Funeral Home.

District Attorney Robert Edward Burke asked Judge Jay N. Conley to establish a $150,000 signature bond, but Conley said he felt a cash bond was more appropriate and set bail at $10,000 cash.

Randall Walter Petrouske II, Beaton’s defense attorney, pointed out that Beaton has filed suit against the funeral home’s former owners in Marinette County, suggesting that Beaton would not be a flight risk and has a vested interest in seeing the court cases through.

“There’s a substantial dispute over whether Mr. Beaton was in fact an owner of this company … and the alleged victims in this case are the defendants,” Petrouske said. “I think it casts some doubt on the strength of the state’s case in the sense that there’s substantial dispute over the factual allegations.”

Conley said the offenses involve well over $100,000 and provide an incentive not to appear back in court without at least some cash bond being set.

“These are property offenses. They’re nonviolent offenses. But as property offenses go, they’re at the top of the food chain, so to speak,” he said.

A preliminary hearing of the charges was scheduled for 10 a.m. March 26 before Judge Michael T. Judge.

In the Marinette County civil case, Beaton alleges that Russell and Karen Walker breached three agreements signed when Beaton joined their funeral home business in October 2016. The court documents also allege wrongful eviction in addition to other claims related to their business relationship and the sale.