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Milwaukee sexual assault suspect pleads no contest, avoids jail

Earlier this year we told you about a Milwaukee man who was facing sexual assault charges based on the allegations of a woman who was applying to work for him. After multiple delays in the case, it appears to have been resolved with a plea agreement. But the outcome is somewhat unusual for a sex crime.

The case involves a 63-year-old man who works extensively with reptiles and was leading a nonprofit reptile organization when he met his accuser, a 26-year-old woman from suburban Chicago. In May 2010 her mother dropped her off at a Milwaukee restaurant for an interview with the man, whom she'd met at a reptile fair and inquired about a possible internship. She said he took her back to his home and later touched her in an inappropriate sexual manner.

A subsequent police search also turned up more than 200 reptiles in the man's home, including free-roaming crocodiles. The police report accused the man of hoarding the animals in squalid conditions, which led to charges of animal mistreatment.

In the two years that followed, the sexual assault case was delayed more than once due to a lack of evidence. The assistant district attorney prosecuting the case said in addition to the difficulty in proving the woman's allegations, the man's defense team alleged that she had made false allegations against other men in the past. She denied that claim, but the case ended with a plea agreement in which the defendant pleaded no contest to charges of fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor.

The plea deal means he will likely not serve any jail time. Instead, he must meet a series of conditions over the next five months, including community service, a donation to animal rescue organizations and possibly an evaluation and treatment program for sex offenders. He is not expected to have to register as a sex offender, however.

The man continues to deny the woman's accusations along with any allegations he has an animal hoarding problem. Although he was fortunate to avoid a jail sentence, he still must live with the suspicions of those in his community who believe he did commit sexual assault and simply got a lucky break.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Streamwood victim speaks out after Milwaukee defendant pleads no contest," Lisa Black, Nov. 13, 2012

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