EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — A retired Altoona police officer faces the prospect of up to 40 years in prison after an Eau Claire County jury found him guilty Wednesday, Aug. 9, of felony first-degree sexual assault of a child younger than 13.
And that concerns Jeffrey J. Anger's attorney, Harry Hertel of Eau Claire.
For a 60-year-old former police officer, "the prospect of a prison sentence is difficult and extremely dangerous," Hertel said following the jury verdict.
Anger bowed his head and was silent as the guilty verdict was announced following nearly five hours of deliberation. The jury acquitted Anger of a second count of the same charge.
Members of Anger's family shrieked and cried loudly, and at least two of them were escorted from the courtroom by bailiffs.
Several Eau Claire police officers were also inside and near the courtroom during the verdict to assure an orderly verdict and aftermath.
Following sentencing, which has not been scheduled, Hertel said he would refer the case to another attorney for a possible appeal.
Dunn County Judge Rod Smeltzer vacated Anger's $2,000 signature bond, meaning Anger will be held in the Eau Claire County Jail until sentencing.
Smeltzer ordered a pre-sentence investigation by the state Department of Corrections.
Hertel told Smeltzer he expects to also provide an alternate pre-sentence investigation for the judge's consideration.
During closing arguments of the three-day trial, Eau Claire County assistant district attorney Meri Larson said all evidence "is pointing to Jeffrey Anger and nowhere else,"
The victim, who was 11 at the time of the sexual assault, had no motive to lie in this case, and she came forward because she was afraid Anger might do this to someone else, Larson said.
While the girl didn't see the face of the person who sexually assaulted her, she saw the blue and black checkered pants Anger always wore. The girl also smelled chewing tobacco during the assault, and Anger chews tobacco, Larson said.
"No one else could have done it," she said. "Jeff Anger is the only person who could have done this. There's absolutely no reason to doubt this child."
During his closing arguments, Hertel said Anger did not engage in sexual contact with the girl.
"We question whether any sexual contact took place," he said.
There were inconsistencies in the girl's version of events, and she said she thought some of the sexual touching may have been a dream, Hertel said.
"This is very sad," he said of this case.
"Logic, reason and prudence doesn't allow you to look at this and not hesitate," Hertel told the jury. "The burden of proof has not been met. Jeff Anger's innocent."
According to the criminal complaint:
On Sept. 12, 2014, a Menomonie Police Department detective was asked to conduct an investigation for the Altoona Police Department because the suspect is a retired Altoona police officer.
An 11-year-old girl told the detective Anger had sexual contact with her on two separate occasions in September 2014 at an Altoona residence.
In addition, the girl said, Anger had discussions of a sexual nature with her, which made her feel uncomfortable.
Anger retired in July 2009 after spending nearly 30 years with the Altoona Police Department.
Hertel said he hopes Smeltzer will take into account all the positive things Anger has done in his life.
"It's too early to tell," Hertel said.
"I'm extremely disappointed," he said of the verdict. "I think (Anger's) a very good man, someone who's done a lot of good things. This is a tragedy no matter what.
"No matter the outcome, not everyone could have walked away feeling good about it," Hertel said. "I truly believe in Jeff's innocence."