Kevin Gillson and his 15-year-old girlfriend found themselves in the kind of trouble experienced by thousands of teens - she was pregnant.
The 18-year-old wanted to take responsibility by marrying her, getting a job and raising their child, expected in early June.
But then police found out and arrested Gillson on a charge of sexual assault, which was later boosted to sexual assault of a child. Since he was convicted, he will have to register as a sex offender and faces a sentence ranging from probation to 40 years in prison.
One tearful juror said she despised her April 17 vote to convict the man, but thought she had no choice under state law.
Despite assurances from Gillson’s girlfriend that the sex was consensual, the longstanding law says no one under the age of 16 can consent to a sexual relationship.
Few of the 10,000 people in this town 30 miles north of Milwaukee side with the district attorney who prosecuted Gillson.
“It’s pathetic,” said Penni Feezor, 32, serving burgers, chili and coffee at a George Webb restaurant. “If he had intentions of doing the right thing, why put him in jail?”
“It takes two people to do it, and he’s not the only person who’s gotten a 15-year-old pregnant, and I don’t think he deserves one year, let alone 40,” said Cheryl L. Huettl, 37, as she enjoyed a beer at a local bar.
“I think it’s got a lot of people who are dating younger people scared,” said 15-year-old Annette Moe. “I still don’t think you should go to jail or get in trouble for it and I don’t think he should be known to his neighbors as a sexual predator.”
A juror said it wasn’t that simple.
“We were led to believe that we only had one choice, the way it was presented to us,” said Holly Sutinen, 39. “We had a copy of the law, and they both said they did it and that was our only choice.”
“My eyes were full of tears, because it’s all our kids sitting there,” Sutinen said.
Ozaukee County District Attorney Sandy Williams won’t discuss specifics on the case.
But she said her office tried to negotiate a pretrial resolution and was told Gillson wanted to go to trial.
The prosecutor said she would recommend a sentence that does not include jail time. “I can tell you that in cases like this, probation usually occurs, if the person usually takes responsibility for his actions and has minimal contact with the criminal justice system,” Williams said.
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