Homer Van Meter
Homer Van Meter
The case involving a Rhinelander man accused of fabricating a story that he was shot by two individuals last April while logging near Tomahawk is under review in Lincoln County Circuit Court as his defense attorney seeks dismissal of the charges against him.

John "Homer" Van Meter, 52, faces two misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer. The charges stem from a joint investigation by the Lincoln and Oneida County sheriff's departments.

The probe concluded that Van Meter falsely reported the initial complaint he filed, when he claimed two men in a black SUV showed up at his work site around noon last April 19 and opened fire on him, and that he refused to provide truthful information about the two suspects.

Van Meter told authorities he was involved in a running gun battle during which his truck sustained 23 bullet strikes and he was wounded in the torso.

He also claimed he chased one man through the woods as they exchanged gunfire and that he had possibly wounded one assailant before both escaped.

After it was reported by The Lakeland Times that portions of Van Meter's account echoed a novel he had written titled "Day of the Little Guy," police investigating the incident stated that Van Meter changed his story about the identities of the two men he claimed attacked him and would not provide any information about the suspects or their location.

However, the 14-page motion to dismiss submitted by Van Meter's attorney, Marcus J. Berghahn, claims the criminal complaint and its related reports do not provide "a single fact or reasonable inference which dispute that the shootout occurred or that the accused suffered a gunshot wound as a result of the shootout."

The crux of the matter

"The lack of any information demonstrating the falsity of the accused's assertions - that he was shot by two individuals - is the crux of the complaint's failure," states the motion to dismiss. "Neither the criminal complaint nor its attached Exhibit A provide information from which the court may reasonably infer that the accused either fabricated a story about an alleged shootout on April 19, 2006, or that he shot himself and, thus, in these two regards, he allegedly provided false information to a law enforcement officer."

Berghahn is arguing that the criminal complaint against his client is "defective" because it "fails to state sufficient facts to support the conclusion that probable cause exists that the accused committed the offense charged" and that it "fails to allege all the elements of the offense or facts sufficient to support each element of the offense."

"Moreover, even if one were to suggest that the accused's 'refusal' to provide additional information about his assailants were a sufficient factual basis for the alleged offense (and the complaint is not pleaded in this fashion)," a violation of the state statute Van Meter is charged with "could not be based on the accused's alleged failure to provide information to police," the motion to dismiss states.

In other words, the attorney argued, there is no evidence in the complaint that Van Meter "obstructed" any officer in the course of official duties.

Concerning the gunshot wounds Van Meter sustained and a bullet recovered from him during surgery, the motion to dismiss states that an investigator's report "does not allow a neutral magistrate to draw an inference that the accused's firearms caused his own injuries" nor "conclude that the gunshot wounds suffered by the accused were self-inflicted."

A motion hearing in the case was held Feb. 27 before Judge Jay R. Tlusty, who has taken the motion to dismiss under advisement, prior to issuing a ruling. A trial date for Van Meter has been set in Lincoln County for May 7.

Kevin Boneske can be reached at [email protected]