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Man sues county over wrongful conviction

Man sues county over wrongful conviction

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A man is seeking damages from Jackson County in federal court after accusing sheriff’s department officials of withholding evidence that led to a sexual assault conviction that since has been overturned.

Victor L. Williams in August filed the civil rights case, alleging former Jackson County deputy Eric Rosandich and former Capt. Tim Nichols intentionally withheld information that would have cast doubt on the testimony of a key witness and likely would have led to his acquittal, according to documents filed in United States District Court’s Western District of Wisconsin.

The county denied wrongdoing in a defense brief filed last week. Sheriff Duane Waldera did not wish to comment.

Both sides are seeking a trial in the case.

Williams, 37, was charged in 2012 and later convicted of second-degree sexual assault, possession of a firearm by a felon and intimidation of a witness.

Williams argues the charges were exclusively based on statements of a woman and her daughter, who was the alleged victim in the sexual assault, and that the mother gave contradictory statements to Rosandich about whether she had seen Williams in possession of a gun, according to the civil filing.

The civil suit argues Nichols, who interviewed the woman and her daughter, also should have followed up on contradictory statements. It states Nichols falsely testified at trial that the mother’s testimony was consistent with his prior interview with her and also argues Nichols and Rosandich intentionally failed to tell the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office about the contradictory testimony or provide the report that would have indicated it, according to the filing.

Williams was sent to prison, but the district attorney’s office filed a motion to reopen the conviction and dismiss the charges related to the sexual assault based on an investigation it ordered after receiving an anonymous letter. The inquiry revealed “strong evidence” that the mother and daughter made up the sexual assault allegation and eventually led to Williams’ release from prison in October 2014 after he served about 1,000 days.

The suit seeks relief because of denial of federal and state constitutional rights and emotional and mental distress, according to the filing.

Nichols was placed on leave in early 2015 and resigned from the sheriff’s department last December, prompting an early end to an internal investigation into allegations that included he failed to properly dispose of evidence, failed to complete reports and mishandled funds, according to documents received through a Chronicle open records request earlier this year.

Rosandich accepted a position with another county in July 2015 and concluded his Jackson County employment two months later, according to Diane Peterson, the county’s personnel director.

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