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Deputy accused of sexual assault

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 3, 2009
— A Rock County sheriff's deputy is accused of sexually assaulting a young woman at a Halloween party.

Steven L. Stenulson, 38, was arrested on a charge of second-degree sexual assault at 1:52 p.m. Monday at his residence, 1934 Liberty Lane, Janesville, authorities reported.


Milton police made the arrest. Police Chief Jerry Schuetz said Stenulson was acquainted with his accuser. Both were at the party in the 500 block of College Street on Saturday night.


Police believe the assault took place between 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 a.m. Sunday. A female called police to the College Street residence at 2:46 a.m. to report a sexual assault, Schuetz said.


Stenulson was at the residence when police arrived, Schuetz said.


Schuetz said the assault did not include intercourse. He declined to describe the assault any further, but he said second-degree sexual assault is a felony that involves sexual contact with someone not capable of giving consent or who is under the influence of alcohol.


Stenulson was being held at the Dane County Jail and probably will make his initial appearance in Rock County Court today, Schuetz said.


Schuetz would not identify the people who live at the residence where the incident took place, saying they are still under investigation for permitting underage persons to drink alcohol and had not been arrested as of Monday evening.


"Several" people at the party were older than 21, and investigators have identified "a handful" of people younger than 21 who were drinking, Schuetz said.


Stenulson was a guest at the party and was off duty, Schuetz said.


Police believe the accuser was assaulted in an upstairs bedroom. Stenulson and several others told investigators Stenulson went upstairs to check on the welfare of the accuser, who was intoxicated, Schuetz said.


Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden said Stenulson was placed on administrative leave immediately after he was identified as a suspect and remains on leave pending an internal investigation.


"That investigation will be thorough and will ensure that the facts of the case are made known," according to a news release from the sheriff's department.


The investigation will look at how the allegations against Stenulson involve violations of sheriff's office policy and code of conduct, Spoden said.


"Those are obviously very serious, and we take it very seriously here at the sheriff's office," Spoden said. "This is very disturbing to us. This is not a good day for us."


At the same time, Spoden said, his office wants to do all it can to ensure that justice is served.


Spoden said Stenulson's duty weapon and sheriff card were confiscated. The card gives a deputy the authority to act as a police officer.


Stenulson was jailed in Dane County for two reasons, Spoden said: The desire not to endanger him by being jailed with people he might have arrested, and to remove any doubt he would be treated like any other inmate.


Stenulson was booked at the sheriff's office before two sheriff's captains took him to Dane County, Spoden said.


Stenulson started at the sheriff's department as a correctional officer in June 1998. He became a deputy in August 2000, according to Gazette files. He was named the department's Deputy of the Year in 2007.


Spoden said Stenulson was a patrol officer on the evening shift until nine months ago, when he was assigned to the Special Investigations Unit. The SIU handles a variety of investigations in cooperation with several of the county's smaller police departments.



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