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Jury convicts River Falls man: Suspect accused of sexually assaulting child

Jason K. Metz

A Pierce County jury last week convicted a River Falls man accused of sexually assaulting a child.

Jason K. Metz, 43, was convicted Friday of repeated sexual assault of a child following a three-day trial in Pierce County Circuit Court. The charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison, is predicated on at least three violations of first-degree sexual assault.

He will be sentenced Feb. 29.

Metz was accused of sexually assaulting a child who was 5 or 6 years old at the time of the abuse.

According to a criminal complaint, the child told her mother Metz sexually abused her “and then promised her Oreo cookies afterward.”

Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich played an audio interview between the girl and her mother during the trial on Wednesday, Dec. 9. During the recording -- made at home by the mother -- the girl describes how Metz attempted to bribe her with the cookies.

“He said, ‘Don’t tell anyone,’” the girl, sobbing, said in the recording.

Defense attorney Mark Gherty later noted that the victim first denied the abuse during an interview with a Pierce County social worker and a police officer.

Froelich later asked Jennelle Wolf, the lead child protection social worker for Pierce County, if it’s possible a child might first deny abuse before later reporting it.

“It has occurred,” she responded.

Wolf admitted under cross-examination by Gherty that in her role as a child abuse investigator, she came up with an unsubstantiated finding in the case.

Gherty argued that the victim’s mother was never formally interviewed by Wolf, nor was the girl’s therapist. He also attempted to raise the issue of inconsistent and unreliable reports about the abuse made by another child.

The mother, Gherty said in court, “possibly orchestrated this case.”

Wolf, questioned on redirect by Froelich, later said there was no information suggesting the victim had been “coached” in the case by her mother.

Jurors deliberated five hours before returning the verdict.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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