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Wisconsin judge: No new charges allowed in sexual assault case

In a criminal trial, it's the prosecutor's job to take whatever measures he or she deems necessary to protect the victim. Those measures might include concealing the victim's identity and determining whether victim testimony will help or harm the victim and the case. It's the defense attorney's job to do the same for his or her client. Not surprisingly, many times these opposing measures clash, requiring a judge to decide what should be allowed.

The judge in the sexual assault case against a prominent Wisconsin businessman has ruled that no new charges may be filed against him, despite multiple requests by the state. The man faces a single count of repeated sexual assault of a child, but the state wants to add three counts of incest of a child by a stepparent to the criminal complaint.

The state filed its request a few weeks ago, but the judge denied the motion. The state then asked the judge to reconsider, but he again declined, explaining that he'd asked the state about amending the criminal complaint at a Jan. 9 hearing and given prosecutors two weeks to decide. But the state didn't file documents requesting the extra charges until Feb. 15.

The assistant district attorney reasoned that it wasn't until Feb. 14 that the state learned the victim, who lives in North Carolina, wouldn't accept a summons to appear in court in Wisconsin. The incest charges weren't filed originally because prosecutors didn't want to alienate the victim, the assistant district attorney wrote.

In denying the state's second request, the judge faulted prosecutors for their handling of the witness and said the state was well aware of the trial date of April 23. Furthermore, he said, the state had notice as early as Oct. 21, 2011, that the victim showed non-compliance and non-cooperation. That was the date the victim refused to release her medical records.

As the judge himself said, there must be a balance between the needs of the defendant and those of the state. The defense has been preparing its case according to the original criminal complaint. To add charges so close to the trial date would be prejudicial to the defendant's interests.

Source: The Journal Times, "State may not add new charges in Johnson case, judge rules," David Steinkraus, March 14, 2012

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