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Former NFL player from Poplar accused of sexually assaulting child

Tom Burke, a 2020 inductee of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, faces a potentially lengthy prison term if convicted of the Duluth charge.


A football legend from Northwestern Wisconsin is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl in St. Louis County.

Tom Burke, 44, was arraigned Monday in State District Court in Duluth on a count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Burke, a former Northwestern High School star who went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers and the Arizona Cardinals, has been living in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. A warrant was issued for his arrest June 8. He waived extradition to Minnesota on Friday after being arrested in Douglas County.

Thomas Allen Burke.jpg
Thomas Allen Burke


A criminal complaint states that alleged assaults were first reported to authorities Feb. 21, when the 7-year-old victim disclosed to her mother "something that's been a secret." The victim, who was known to Burke, reportedly indicated that Burke had been performing oral sex on her.

A forensic interview of the victim was conducted at First Witness Child Advocacy Center the following day. Authorities said the girl began to tear up and indicated she did not like to talk about it before going on to give several details of the alleged incidents. The complaint states that she described as many of five incidents involving oral sex or touching of her genital area.

Burke, when interviewed, denied any sexual acts toward the victim and explained that he thought he was being "railroaded," the complaint states.

Senior Judge Gary Larson set Burke's bail at $100,000 in accordance with a request from Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Jon Holets.

The prosecutor told the court he "does not believe that any type of supervised release is appropriate," citing Burke's residency across state lines and a suspected "higher-than-average ability to pay bail."

The judge denied an application for a public defender.

Burke does not appear to have any prior criminal history in Minnesota, though court records reveal that he was convicted of a misdemeanor count of battery in Douglas County in 2008.

He faces a potentially lengthy prison term if convicted of the sexual abuse charge. Under Minnesota guidelines, a first-time offender could expect to receive approximately 12-14 years.


Burke, who was born in Proctor and raised in Poplar, was inducted last year into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. The defensive end had a Big Ten record 22 sacks in 1998 and went on to win that season's Rose Bowl with the Badgers. He was picked in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft, spending four seasons with the Cardinals before injuries helped end his career.

He told the News Tribune last summer that he was retired and had recently moved to Rice Lake.

Burke's next court appearance is set for July 6.

This story was updated at 1:35 p.m. June 14 with additional information from Burke's arraignment and again at 5:06 p.m. to indicate his application for a public defender was denied. It was originally posted at 10:44 a.m. June 14.

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