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City Engineering Project Manager Charged With Domestic Abuse

Charges allege he attacked his wife in their Sussex home and held police at bay while refusing to come out with his children. His attorney says there are "substantial disputes" with that version and "two sides to the story."

A City of Brookfield engineering project manager is facing charges after he allegedly strangled his wife and held police officers at bay from inside his Sussex home after a night of drinking last week.

John Laning, 40, was charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court Friday with domestic abuse strangulation and suffocation, false imprisonment, battery and two counts of felony intimidation of a victim. If convicted, he faces up to 33 years in prison and $80,000 in fines.

According to the criminal complaint:

On Thursday, Laning was out for a trap shooting league and drinking when he sent a text message to his wife at 9:41 p.m. asking if he could stay out until 11 p.m. She said she would prefer he got home earlier, but at 11 p.m. Laning was still gone.

She sent him another message at 11:04 p.m. asking where he was and six minutes later he walked in the door of their home located in the N7900 block of Martin Court, visibly intoxicated. When she asked where he was, Laning didn’t say but swore at her and told her to divorce him.

She found a receipt for The Sussex Place in his wallet, so she asked why he was there when he was supposed to be at the Fairway. He instead grabbed the receipt and other receipts and tore them up.

Argument turned physical

Laning then shoved her into a kitchen counter, so she punched him in the face and tried to get away, the complaint alleges. But Laning threw her to the ground and began to punch her in the face and grab her arms. Their children were nearby so the mother yelled for them to call 911, but they began to cry.

He let her up and she grabbed a phone to call police, but he threw it out of her hand and ripped the phone jack out of the wall. She tried to run out the garage, but Laning chased after her, caught her and dragged her back inside, holding her up against the kitchen sink in a wrestling hold.

Their daughter again began crying, so he let his wife go, who then grabbed the girl and tried to run out the garage yet again, but Laning caught them. He let his wife take the girls upstairs, but while she was walking up, he grabbed her again and pulled her back down.

His wife then tried calling 911 with a cell phone, but Laning grabbed it and threw it across the house. She told him continuously to just leave, but he eventually agreed to talk with her in the back yard.

Once outside, she ran to a neighbor’s house and began to ring the doorbell repeatedly. When the neighbor answered the door, Laning had this wife pushed up against a pillar where she was yelling for him to call 911, while Laning was saying not to because he would go to jail.

She was eventually able to escape and get into the neighbor’s house, where they called police. Laning ran back to their home and stayed inside with his two daughters, keeping police at bay for a period of time until he agreed to come out. When he exited, he kept his youngest daughter in front of him, according to the complaint.

Defense disputes charges

Brookfield City Attorney Karen Flaherty said Wednesday that the city was not aware of the details of the criminal complaint and will monitor the outcome to determine whether his employment will be impacted. Laning, an engineering project manager who supervises road and bike path projects, was back at work this week.

"We will wait and see what happens," she said.

Laning's attorney, Jonathan LaVoy, said there were "two sides to the story" and Laning had a different version but it was too premature in the case to provide it.

"We have some substantial disputes with that (criminal complaint) version of events," LaVoy said. He added Laning had a "significant facial injury, essentially it's a black eye. The issue is who is defending who. There certainly was violence from her to him as well."

Laning posted $25,000 bond and has moved to Pewaukee while under a court order to have no contact with his wife and children. He was scheduled to return to court Friday for a preliminary hearing.

KAY KRISTIN August 30, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Wake up, LaVoy...if someone pushed me into a kitchen counter, I'd slug him in the eye too. It's called defending yourself.
JD August 30, 2012 at 01:09 PM
It's morons like you that always are quick to judge before knowing the facts.
Scott Berg August 30, 2012 at 03:16 PM
What is the public interest in identifying the suspect as a City of Brookfield employee? The (alleged!) incident was NOT during the performance of his job. He's not in an elected or senior manager role. He's not a policeman. No other similar incidents reported by Patch mention the workplace unless it was directly involved in the incident. e.g. "Brookfield Man Charged With Pointing Gun at Fiancee's Head" or "Brookfield Woman's Tantrum over Crack Cocaine Money Leads to Charges" or "Hoarding Issues Leads to Attack in Brookfield Home" or ... I don't know what happened. That's for the court to figure out. Domestic abuse, assuming that's what happened, is unacceptable no matter where a person works. The implication that the city was somehow involved is uncalled for.
DICK STEINBERG September 01, 2012 at 07:05 PM
the only reference to his job is in the beginning of the article. there is no implication in the article that the city was somehow involved.
Scott Berg September 01, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Let's see here: 1) Headline identified him as "City Engineering Project Manager" 2) Opening paragraph identifies him as "A City of Brookfield engineering project manager" 3) Another paragraph starts with "Brookfield City Attorney" 4) The next paragraph quotes the City Attorney again. And yet, you claim "the only reference to his job is in the beginning of the article". So, in your previous role as Brookfield Municipal Judge or your more recent role as Brookfield aldermanic candidate, what would you have thought if every time you were quoted the article would start by mentioning your hair color (or make of car you drive or ...)? How would it have better qualified the quote and informed the public?
gg September 02, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Well, Scott this isn't any worse than that CCAP that Wisconsin has. It disgraces the citizens here. Some of these self-righteous, judgemental people want it to stay. Why? So they can point fingers and gossip.
DICK STEINBERG September 04, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Scott. your comments should be directed to the writer and the press, not to me. "people in glass houses should not throw stones". consult with your own lawyer/s before trying to be one.
123Reader October 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM
People need to be concerned about jumping to conclusions. The article mentioned that he had visible injuries but yet no mention of any visible injuries on her. I am vehemently opposed to any domestic violence, but am aware that one article doesn't convict a person. If he truly strangled his wife and the evidence supports it, he needs to suffer the consequences. However, if she expanded on the circumstances because she was upset with him for staying out later than she wanted, that needs to be taken into consideration.

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