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Popek sentenced to four years in prison for sexual assault

As Pierce County Circuit Court Judge Robert Wing was holding the key to his future Friday morning, all Brian Popek could manage was to cover his head in his hands.

Popek, 30, formerly of River Falls, was charged with one count of second degree sexual assault of child along with second degree sexual assault of an unconscious victim. (That charge was dismissed.) He ended up being sentenced to four years in state prison, along with six years extended supervision for the sexual assault of a child charge.

Throughout the hearing, discussion ranged about how long the sentence would be.

District Attorney John O'Boyle argued the state's pre-sentence investigation, which called for 6-8 years confinement and 3-5 years extended supervision. He brought up Popek's past history, which includes three counts of battery and two counts of disorderly conduct, and how the level of violence has increased leading up to the sexual assault of a child. He also brought up the fact that, once Popek knew how old his victim was (15), that didn't stop him from having sex with her.

"He's savvy enough to pick victims that aren't credible, which makes it hard to prosecute," he said. "Taking into account his background, prison is more than appropriate for him."

Liesl Nelson, Popek's attorney, argued differently. She believed the girls weren't vulnerable because they're trying to act above their age.

"They're using language and tones beyond their age," she said. "They got way in over their heads seeking adult sexual partners."

Nelson also brought up Popek's maturity, which was questioned all throughout the sentencing hearing.

"He's relatively immature for his age," she said. "He was going younger and they're going older."

And because of that, she stated he didn't think of the girls as vulnerable.

To highlight her point further, Popek scored very low on the risk to re-offend for sexual offenses.

"I do think he's a very good candidate for treatment and not a danger to the community when treated," Nelson said. "He's already served 8? months in prison; if he didn't learn the lesson from being in there, I don't know if he ever will."

Overall, she called for three years confinement and seven years extended supervision.

All that was left was for Wing to voice his opinion.

"The age disparity strikes the court as a person not functioning at a very high level," he said. "You either can or you can't conform your society."

He continued: "He clearly struggled with mental concepts, because probation was revoked twice...He knew he was hurting someone, but couldn't stop...I don't think he's clever, he understands right from wrong, but doesn't grasp concepts well."

Wing believed he needed enclosed supervision so he's capable of learning from his mistakes and felt four years in prison "would be enough time to make the treatment available and accessible."

He did say the 8? months already served can be cut off from the four-year term.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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