A Walworth County jury on Friday acquitted a man of child sexual assault in a case that sprang from a thank-you letter a girl wrote after a school presentation on sexual assault and safe dating.
A jury of seven women and five men decided Daryl J. Teska, 47, of Saukville and formerly West Bend, was not guilty of first-degree sexual assault of a child, exposing genitals and a related charge.
The jury deliberated for five hours before deciding Teska was not guilty of the charges stemming from an alleged incident between April 2002 and April 2005.
The allegation came to light after a presentation given at a local school in 2016. After the presentation, the girl wrote a thank-you letter to the presenter that said she had been a victim of sexual assault when she was young.
“It was a gift being able to hear the words you had to say,” the girl wrote. “Keep doing what you’re doing because I know so many victims out there that don’t tell their story at all, including me.”
The following month, the girl said Teska sexually assaulted her years ago in a town of LaFayette home. Teska was charged in March 2017.
Attorneys for both sides argued over whether the victim should be believed.
Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo said during closing arguments Friday that delays in disclosure are common in such cases and said the delay should not be held against the victim’s credibility. Witnesses, the prosecutor pointed out, said the victim “has a character of truthfulness.”
Donna Kuchler, Teska’s attorney, said the girl was not credible. In the past, Kuchler said the accuser had lied about being pregnant and said that the details she told to different parties over time were not consistent.
Kuchler said it was “messed up” that the girl, who at times has shown she is “dramatic,” would not hesitate to lie about serious and sexual matters.
Kuchler at one point referred to the thank-you letter as a “creative writing assignment.”
Kuchler showed the jury a timeline she said did not line up based on where Teska lived and when, including times he was in jail. Donohoo called the timeline and the claim about jail time misleading because Teska was in and out of confinement.
Kuchler said the girl had several opportunities to disclose her allegations but for years did not.
“It didn’t happen,” she said of the assault. “It just didn’t happen.”
In recounting their stories, victims of sexual assault face a double-edged sword, Donohoo argued: If they remember details too vividly, they might be accused of reading from a script. If they make mistakes, they might be called liars, she said.
The victim was clear and owned up to her mistakes when she made them, Donohoo said.
All of that, plus other testimony, showed Teska was guilty, she said.
“She told you the truth,” Donohoo said. “Hear her. Believe her. Give her the justice that has so long been delayed for her.
“Hold him accountable for what he has done.”
But the jury decided he was not guilty. After the verdicts were announced, Kuchler reached across the table and grabbed Teska’s hand.
He then appeared to mouth the words, “Thank you.”