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Appellant court upholds conviction

MADISON - A state appeals court Tuesday upheld a sentence for a former Douglas County sheriff's deputy convicted on misdemeanor sex assault.

William J. Webber, 56, had appealed his two fourth-degree sexual assault convictions and six-month jail sentence contending that Circuit Judge Kenneth Kutz improperly considered Webber's profession and uncharged conduct, including videotaping his nude ex-wife without her consent, in determining the sentence.

Webber's attorney Chris Gramstrup had argued for a probation-only sentence since it was Webber's first offense. On appeal, Gramstrup contended his client was being punished for being a deputy for 33 years. Instead of holding Webber's profession against him, Kutz should have considered the positive job evaluations Webber accumulated and the positive letters of support.

The District III Court of Appeals disagreed saying Kutz did note there were "a lot of extremely favorable things" about Webber's law enforcement career but Kutz had correctly assessed the prior videotaping of Webber's ex-wife and the photographing of the 17-year-old boy in the present case as they were both done without consent.

"We find no error in the court's ultimate conclusion that Webber seriously abused his position of trust as a friend and officer. The circuit court also properly considered Webber's nonconsensual videotaping of his ex-wife, as it was relevant past conduct that bore on Webber's character," Judge Edward Brunner wrote in the six-page opinion.

The charges stemmed from Webber's fondling of a 17-year-old in a Superior hotel sauna, which so shocked the boy that he asked to be taken home. Webber drove to the home of the boy, who was a friend of Webber's son, where Webber again had sexual contact.

The videotape and photos of the boy were recovered during a subsequent search of Webber's home.

Kutz sentenced Webber in October to six months jail and placed him on two years probation for his misdemeanor sex assault convictions. A jury had acquitted him of a felony, exposing a child to harmful materials. Kutz stayed imposition of the jail term while the appeal was pending.

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