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Wisconsin woman convicted of sexual abuse avoids civil liability

We discuss a wide variety of cases on our criminal defense blog, but it may surprise readers to learn that defendants in criminal cases may also be sued for civil liability, usually by a victim or the victim's family. Whether or not the defendant is found guilty in criminal court doesn't necessarily dictate the outcome of a civil lawsuit, but both cases require a highly effective defense attorney.

Sometimes defendants who have been found guilty of crimes are able to emerge victorious from a civil suit, as was the case for a 44-year-old substitute teacher from Prescott, Wisconsin. She and a 13-year-old student had an inappropriate sexual relationship several years ago. In 2008, she pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault, for which she received nine months in jail and five years' probation. She remains under that probation today.

More recently the student's parents filed a civil lawsuit accusing her of battery, emotional distress and defamation. Last month the case went to trial and to the surprise of many, the jury decided in favor of the former teacher. Perhaps contributing to the verdict was the fact that the boy, now 19 years old, did not testify, nor did the defendant. Her attorney said the boy wanted no involvement in the civil suit and blamed himself for what happened.

The jury said that while the defendant was wrong to engage in sexual activity, the claims of the civil lawsuit didn't add up. One juror, for example, said a psychologist testifying for the plaintiffs received $25,000 for participating in the lawsuit and wasn't a very credible witness.

Regardless of the outcome of this particular case, it's important for sex crime defendants to realize that they may have more than one battle to fight in court, and the outcome may depend heavily on the strength of the defendant's legal representation.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Jury sides with defendant in sex abuse suit," Bruce Vielmetti, Jan. 17, 2013

  • Our firm represents criminal defendants in a wide variety of cases. To learn more about our practice, visit our Wisconsin sex crimes defense page.

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