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Sexual abuse trial delayed for Milwaukee reptile expert

A Milwaukee man accused of sexual assault against a prospective intern for his reptile organization is poised to take a plea deal that would also address charges of mistreatment of animals and false imprisonment. Although the man's attorneys argued that the animal abuse charges should be tried separately, they lost that motion early in the case. In addition to that setback, the man and his counsel may be forced to wait several weeks to resolve all of the charges.

A 26-year-old woman who came to Milwaukee to possibly work as an intern for the man, who is a reptile expert, says the man assaulted her in his home two years ago. Authorities following up on her complaint said they found more than 200 exotic reptiles and other animals in his home and another location, which led them to charge him in May 2010.

But the prosecutor in the case said proving charges of second- and third-degree abuse would be "exceptionally difficult." She wrote a letter to the court suggesting a noncriminal resolution to the case that wouldn't require the man to admit to any sexual misconduct.

Because such a resolution would essentially be a dismissal of the charges, the woman was unhappy and asked to speak with the prosecutor's supervisor. That request was granted and led to the assistant district attorney's decision to review the case file, which is extensive. He plans to make his own assessment of whether the charges can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but that assessment means the case will be postponed for five to six weeks.

Such delays aren't uncommon in a criminal case, especially those where the charges could be dismissed altogether. Even if the charges are dismissed, the purported victim may decide to appeal. Although it's a good sign for the defendant that the initial prosecutor isn't confident the sexual assault charges will stand, the delay -- which is at least the second in this man's case -- means he'll have to wait even longer for the outcome of his case.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Case of reptile expert charged with sexual abuse delayed again," Bruce Vielmetti, June 5, 2012

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