CHIPPEWA FALLS — An Eau Claire man convicted of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl in 2015 was denied Wednesday in his motion to be released while appealing his case.
Seth Z. Lehrke, 23, 3358 Kaycee Drive, was sentenced to serve 5½ years in prison and four years of extended supervision after a Chippewa County jury found him guilty in March 2015 of touching the girl at a home in Eau Claire city limits, in the portion located in Chippewa County, between Dec. 26, 2012, and Feb. 3, 2013. The girl told her father about the sexual assault, and he told authorities. The jury deliberated less than an hour before finding Lehrke guilty of first-degree sexual assault of a child.
At a motion hearing Wednesday, defense attorney Francesco Balistrieri asked Judge Steve Cray for Lehrke to be released while an appeal was pending. He cited a court case he contends allows Cray to release Lehrke.
“I believe it gives the court authority to grant release at this point,” Balistrieri said. Lehrke would live with his mother.
District Attorney Wade Newell — who handled the case three years ago — rejected Balistrieri’s reading of a case that was being used as a precedent for the proposed release. Newell said Lehrke had rights to obtain release pre-conviction but lost those rights post-conviction.
“Once they are convicted it is a whole different situation,” Newell told Cray. “They are in a punishment phase.”
Cray pointed out no appeal case is actually pending.
“No petition for review has been filed with the (state) Supreme Court,” Cray told Balistrieri. “This case is not on appeal at this time.”
Cray agreed with Newell, saying the case Balistrieri was citing didn’t give him the ability to release Lehrke, so Cray denied the motion for lack of jurisdiction.
Lehrke appeared in court, via video, from the New Lisbon Correctional Institute. He didn’t speak during the hearing. During his sentencing in 2015, he continued to deny the assault occurred, which is one reason he got a lengthy sentence.
“You must be held accountable,” Cray told Lehrke during the 2015 sentencing. “Until you can reconcile what you’ve done, you pose a risk to the community.”
During the two-day trial, the girl — who was 8 at the time — testified Lehrke took her into her bedroom and sexually touched her.