Molester grandpa DONALD WENDT is found guilty of first degree sexual assault and child enticement of his 5-year-old granddaughter.
This paternal grandpa tried a novel, pro-active defense: he tried to blame the sexual abuse on the child's mother's family (Wendt was the paternal grandfather, and the mother and father had had a "nasty separation and custody battle"). So Grandpa saw this as a clever way to simultaneously help Dad's custody battle and deflect blame off Grandpa.
Didn't exactly work: the father was furious that Grandpa had returned the child to people that Grandpa claimed had molested the girl, while the mother sought out the police and medical help immediately. The little girl has consistently blamed "Grandpa Don" for the abuse.
Probably didn't help Grandpa's case when he claimed that the 5-year-old girl "enjoyed" the sexual abuse allegedly dished out by her maternal relatives. Or that Grandpa consistently used profanity with investigators. Or that Grandpa was charged with molesting a DIFFERENT granddaughter back in 1998.
Fathers Rights folks say that moms manufacture false charges. Actually, research suggests that the actual molester lies and manufactures countercharges FAR MORE OFTEN.
Donald Wendt is guilty of molesting his granddaughter
By Peter Rebhahn, Star-Times
A Juneau County jury returned a guilty verdict Thursday in the case of a town of Lemonweir man charged with molesting his 5-year-old granddaughter.
Donald R. Wendt, 74, faces a maximum prison sentence of more than 60 years following his conviction for the crimes of first degree sexual assault of a child and child enticement.
The jury of 10 women and two men needed just 90 minutes to find Wendt guilty — a period that included lunch.
The verdict came early Thursday afternoon after closing arguments from attorneys on both sides that capped two days of graphic testimony and evidence.
The evidence included recorded interviews in which Wendt told investigators before his arrest that his granddaughter had falsely accused him to cover up sexual abuse by other relatives that he said she had grown to enjoy.
"It's infuriating to listen to a grandfather accuse his granddaughter of making such disgusting statements," Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth told the court.
Wendt was charged with molesting the girl while babysitting her at his trailerhome near Mauston March 1, 2008.
"It hurts down there and it makes me really sad," the victim told a nurse at Meriter Hospital in Madison days after the crime.
The victim, now 6, took the witness stand for about 25 minutes Wednesday. The Star-Times generally does not reveal the identities of sexual assault victims.
A few weeks after the crime Wendt told investigators from Juneau County and Sauk County, where the girl's mother and other relatives live, that he had only inspected her for signs of sexual activity after she told him that she had been repeatedly forced into sex acts with five family members in Sauk County.
In two recorded videos laced with profanity and sexual language played in court Wednesday, Wendt told Juneau County Sheriff's Department investigators Leigh Neville-Neil and Tom Czys that he waited a day to tell his son Jacob Wendt, the girl's father, so he could deal with the supposed abusers himself.
"Where I come from we kill our own snakes," Wendt told the investigators.
Wendt told his son about the girl's alleged claims the day after the crime as they left the girl in the custody of her relatives in Sauk County.
On the witness stand Wednesday Jacob Wendt told the court that he became angry at his father for allowing him to proceed with an exchange of his daughter that left her in the custody of the very people his daughter had allegedly identified as abusers the day before.
"I was pretty hot," Jacob Wendt told the court.
Jacob Wendt said that he and the child's mother had experienced a nasty separation and custody battle but that he had no reason to believe his daughter had been sexually abused by anyone at the mother's Sauk County home.
The victim's mother learned of her daughter's claims when Donald Wendt confronted a family member in the parking lot of a Sauk County business where the exchange had been pre-arranged. The mother sought medical help for her daughter immediately. In statements to her father, health care professionals and her mother the victim identified abuse only from "Granpa Don" — the defendant.
"I believe her," Jacob Wendt said on the witness stand.
Mark Frank, Wendt's attorney, pointed to evidence gathered in a physical examination of the victim that proved she could not have experienced sexual intercourse or penetration simulating intercourse.
"You can't take her word for those things because we know those things did not happen," Frank told the court in his closing argument Thursday. "So why would you believe the third thing [sexual contact without penetration]?"
Other evidence obtained during a physical examination of the victim could plausibly be attributed to hygiene issues her parents acknowledged the girl was experiencing at the time, Frank said.
Frank conceded that Wendt was a dislikable man but said his version of events had been a misguided attempt to play a helpful role in his son's custody battle by employing the "nuclear bomb" of allegations of abuse at the mother's Sauk County home.
But Southworth told the court that Wendt was "a pedophile" who concocted a story "too incredible to believe" in order to deflect attention from himself in the event the girl divulged what truly happened.
Wendt did not testify during the trial and showed no emotion as the verdict was read Thursday. He spoke only to interrupt Southworth during a particularly graphic moment in the district attorney's closing argument. "Oh you're sick!" Wendt said.
Wendt was charged with a similar crime in Juneau County in 1998. The alleged victim, a different granddaughter, was 8 years old at the time. That case was dismissed when the alleged victim moved out of state. But authorities reopened the 1998 case last April and charged Wendt with two counts of sexual assault of a child.
The 1998 case against Wendt was prosecuted by then District Attorney John Roemer, now a Juneau County judge. Roemer recused himself from last week's court case, which was presided over by Sauk County Judge James Evenson.
After Thursday's verdict Evenson revoked bond for Wendt and ordered sentencing in four to six weeks.
Wendt, who was convicted of felony burglary and robbery in Illinois in 1958, was also charged with possession of two guns. He pleaded no contest to those charges Tuesday before the start of the trial. It is illegal for a convicted felon to possess a gun in Wisconsin.