The first of several men apprehended after an armed robbery in Lake Tomahawk in late 2017 has been sentenced for the crime in Oneida County Circuit Court. The theft included a number of firearms, namely the gun used days later to murder a Lac du Flambeau man.
Joseph Cloud, 25, formerly of Lac du Flambeau and most recently housed at Green Bay Correctional, was charged with burglary with a dangerous weapon, theft and possession of a firearm as a felon, all felonies with modifiers of a habitual criminal and party to a crime. In a plea agreement earlier this summer, he pled guilty to burglary with a dangerous weapon while the other counts were dismissed and read into the record for sentencing.
Post pre-sentence investigation Tuesday morning before Judge Michael Bloom, Cloud had no words to enter for the court. No victims appeared or submitted impact statements, either.
“It’s a serious offense because of the type of offense and the persons involved,” observed Richard Dufour, Wisconsin state assistant attorney general and special prosecutor. “This was a residential burglary, not a commercial. Residential burglary is considered a crime of violence. Every single residential burglary is a homicide waiting to happen.”
The rural Lake Tomahawk burglary involved Cloud along with Richard Allen, 29 — found guilty of murdering Wayne Valliere, Jr., 25, Lac du Flambeau, more than a year ago and sent to life in prison — plus Dayna Mason, 28, as well as Buddy Maurice Big John, 29.
Taken from the home in the theft besides the 9 mm semi automatic gun Allen called “Baby,” was another handgun, a shotgun, a rifle and numerous boxes of ammunition. Also taken were several more shotguns and video consoles and games.
None of the men in the burglary were legally allowed to have guns as convicted felons, Dufour pointed out at the sentencing.
“I’m not alleging Mr. Cloud was involved (but) the gun Mr. Allen was enamored with, a 9 mm handgun, was the gun specifically used to murder Wayne Valliere, Jr., in Iron County on December 22,” Dufour noted.
Cloud was in custody at the time of Valliere’s death following an arrest in Ashland County as a result of violating probation.
“If he had not been involved in helping Richard Allen commit this burglary, Richard Allen wouldn’t have had the gun — the means of murdering Wayne Valliere, Jr.,” Dufour said.
Had the home owner returned home, it was very likely a homicide could have occurred, Dufour indicated.
Cloud had recently been found in possession of a sharpened nail clippers in prison, Dufour pointed out.
In the interest of Cloud’s rehabilitative needs and public safety, Dufour recommended a sentence longer than what the pre-sentence investigation suggested — for a total of eight years in prison confined, followed by four years of extended supervision, consecutive to the sentence he is currently servicing until 2020.
“While the defendant was not directly involved in the death of Wayne Valliere, Jr … he was a member of the same gang as Richard Allen, Joseph Lussier, James Lussier, Curtis Wolfe and likely Even Oungst, the five individuals involved in the murder,” Dufour said. “Had he not been in custody at the time … he likely would have been with Richard Allen … it’s certainly not unreasonable … that homicide was a related to gang activity. I suspect he would have been along.”
Allen and Joseph Lussier, 28; James Lussier, 20; Curtis Wolfe, 28; all formerly Lac du Flambeau, and Evan Oungst, 29, Arbor Vitae, were all arrested and charged in the homicide of Valliere in Iron County in early 2018. Allen and Lussier were convicted of the murder in the first degree and sent to life behind bars immediately.
According to court documents, Cloud and Mason and a female were involved with Allen in a reported Bad River “drug deal gone bad” that involved a “meth run” from Minnesota in the weeks before the Valliere homicide. That drug deal was cited as one of the possible reasons leading to Valliere’s murder, according to witnesses interviewed by authorities. He, along with the five charged in Valliere’s death, have been alleged of being members of the Native Soldier Gang.
William Lennon, Cloud’s defense attorney, acknowledged his client had failed on probation and extended supervision in the past. Cloud’s past violations, which began shortly after he turned 18, included felony burglary, disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property, theft, resisting arrest and counts of bail jumping.
“I agree with the state, prison is called for,” Lennon said to the court. “In the end, though … eight years is unduly harsh … I would argue that the type of sentence (be related) to the ensuing murder that took place while my client was in custody.”
Lennon stated he felt Allen could have been capable of stealing the weapon with or without Cloud’s involvement.
“Mr. Cloud didn’t have anything to do with the murder,” Lennon observed. “He was not (the one) enamored with the gun … (and the) ensuing tragedy that took place.”
Cloud’s attorney noted his client had been cooperative with police and felt the need to protect himself behind bars with the clippers.
“He entered into a plea agreement, that says something,” Lennon added.
Judge Bloom stated the gravity of an offense such as armed burglary was indeed serious — and the theft of firearms often resulted as a conduit of criminals obtaining guns.
“The violent murder of anyone in a community draws a very strong reaction,” Bloom indicated. “It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been if this crime hadn’t taken place … we can’t assume (Cloud would) be involved. It’s certainly possible … but I do not assume it … it’s just an example of why the crime is as serious as it is.
“There is a reason why Mr. Cloud associated with Mr. Allen. Those reasons need to be changed for Mr. Cloud’s benefit, and the benefit of others … if you succeed, everyone succeeds,” Bloom said.
The judge handed down a sentence of five years incarceration followed by three years extended supervision consecutive to his current sentences. Cloud is not eligible for early release nor credit of days served. He must pay costs and restitution, if submitted. He will be released around 2025.
“There’s reason to be hopeful a corner can be turned,” Bloom concluded.
Oungst will be sentenced in September after taking a plea deal on amended charges. Wolfe has a motion hearing next week, with a jury trial set for December. James Lussier was sent to prison incarceration for 15 years after pleading guilty to lesser charges. Both are in Iron County Jail.
Mason has a bench trial upcoming this fall. Big John recently was taken into custody for violating his bond in the Lake Tomahawk burglary case, and is pending future court action.