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Milwaukee County sergeant implicated in underage pornography ring

In previous posts we've discussed the damaging effects of criminal charges on a person's career, particularly those in positions of public authority. Facing those charges can be even more difficult when your employer is pressed to make a public statement to the media about your case.

Recently a Milwaukee County sheriff's sergeant was arrested on federal charges of underage pornography. Once a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department who appeared frequently on television for news conferences, the sergeant himself was the subject of a statement the sheriff recently made to the media, saying he's "disgusted with the nature of the allegations against the deputy" as they were explained to him.

The sergeant was first implicated when federal investigators traced a underage pornography ring to suspects in Denver and Pittsburgh. Images from those suspects' collections were tracked back to a campground in Campbellsport, Wisconsin, using GPS markers. From there authorities identified the sergeant as the owner of a trailer there, where he was also listed as the renter of the campsite. The Fond du Lack County Sheriff's Department helped the FBI search the trailer and later arrested the sergeant.

The criminal complaint states the sergeant was involved in a peer-to-peer file-sharing program used by the pornography ring and that his profile page stated he was looking for images of girls. The complaint also alleges he made videos of prepubescent girls who appeared to be sleeping or drugged when the images were taken.

The sergeant, who is currently suspended, is scheduled to appear in federal court this week for a preliminary hearing. If convicted, he could serve a sentence of 30 years in prison and face fines of up to $250,000. Even if he's found not guilty, it will be extremely difficult to win back the trust of the sheriff and resume his job in public safety. At the very least, it seems certain he'll no longer appear as the public face of the Sheriff's Department.

Not everyone faces this kind of public scrutiny, of course. If you're charged or risk being charged with a federal crime, a sex crime or any other serious offense, it's important to seek legal advice right away to salvage your reputation and avoid destroying your career.

Source: Fox 6 Now, "Milw. Co. Sheriff's Sgt. Philip Wentzel in federal custody," Katie DeLong and Ben Handelman, May 4, 2012

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