Lawyers in a child sexual assault case sparked by a thank-you letter at a school presentation are at odds over the relevance of other allegations of touching in the suspect’s past.
Daryl J. Teska, 47, of West Bend is charged with first-degree sexual assault of a young child, child enticement, exposing genitals to a child and a related charge. The case started after a female student heard a presentation on sexual assault and safe dating in January 2016 and wrote to the presenters about her own experiences with a man she knows, according to the criminal complaint.
The student is now an adult, but the sexual assault allegations occurred when she was a young child.
Teska’s attorney, Donna Kuchler, on Jan. 8 filed a response to the prosecution’s earlier request to include other allegations of inappropriate touching and behavior as evidence against Teska, who largely dismisses the allegations as normal behavior.
The sexual assault charge stems from a sex act the woman says Teska forced her to do when she was young, according to the complaint.
Walworth County Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo filed a motion last summer to include other evidence she says a jury should know about Teska’s history of inappropriate behavior.
According to court documents, the woman told investigators she once had tried to play with other kids, but Teska made her stay with him and cuddled up close to her. The woman said she kicked and screamed until Teska let her play.
In a second incident, the woman said she was in the third grade when Teska came into the bathroom and told her she was not washing properly, and he pointed to and touched her private area, according to court documents. The woman said Teska then got in the shower with her.
“In both incidents, the defendant took advantage of opportunities to be alone with (the woman) while she was naked in the bathroom, and he took steps to ‘normalize’ the touching by telling (the woman) the touching was for the purpose of cleaning one another,” Donohoo wrote.
“By grooming and ‘normalizing’ physical and sexual contact with (the woman), the defendant decreased the likelihood of reporting or detection,” she wrote.
In her response, Kuchler argued the other incidents cannot be included as “prior acts” because they allegedly happened after the alleged sexual assault. Therefore, the other acts cannot shed light on Teska’s motive or intent, she said.
Kuchler also argued the cuddling and helping a child wash are normal adult behaviors.
“This unfairly shifts an innocent act of affection or teasing by the defendant into some type of deviant behavior,” Kuchler wrote about the first incident.
She wrote it was “preposterous and unfairly prejudicial” that the prosecution would characterize making sure a child was washing properly in the shower as sexual assault.
Walworth County Judge Kristine Drettwan is scheduled to give an oral ruling on the motion at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31.
Teska previously had tried to get the charges against him dismissed, but Drettwan denied his request for the most part.
On Dec. 21, Drettwan refused to dismiss the charges, but she said the prosecution had included too long of a time span for the alleged assault, court records show.
Drettwan decided a three-year charging window for the allegations would be appropriate, according to court records. The district attorney’s office filed amended information Jan. 3, shortening the window to between April 17, 2002, and April 17, 2005.
Teska is set for a final pretrial hearing at 10 a.m. April 27 and a five-day jury trial the next week.