Michael Poch not guilty on rape charge|
|Michael J. Poch walked away a free man Thursday after being acquitted by a Langlade County jury of allegations he sexually assaulted a young girl in 2010.|
After 90 minutes of deliberation, the panel returned with verdicts of not guilty on felony charges of first degree sexual assault of a child under the age of 12 and intimidation of a victim.
The news was greeted by a sense of relief and satisfaction by 36-year-old Poch and members of his family who were among those seated in the gallery during the two days of testimony.
The verdict brought to a close over six months of legal wranglings from the time when the former Antigo man was first arrested in Pennsylvania and returned here to face the allegations.
Throughout the trial, defense counsel Shawn Paul cited what she described as “discrepancies” in the girl’s statements to law enforcement officers and social workers including such things as specific dates, clothing descriptions and hand placements.
In her closing argument, the attorney asked jury members to take into account all the information that was provided and question whether the state met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that her client was guilty of the allegations.
“Search for the truth,” she stressed.
The charges were brought after the child’s mother found a letter the girl had written more than a year after the alleged incident which indicated she had been “raped” by Poch.
Under questioning by Attorney Paul and District Attorney Ralph Uttke, the girl testified as to the act, stating that Poch had “pinned” her to the bed prior to the assault taking place. She said she screamed but Poch told her to “scream all you want but no one will hear you.” The girl also testified that Poch threatened to hurt her mother if she told people of the incident.
In his closing argument, Uttke asked the jury to use common sense when making their decision.
He traced the multiple steps prior to trial during which the girl could have refuted her statement had she in fact been lying as the defense suggested. Those included conversations with her mother upon discovery of the letter as well as subsequent interviews conducted by the Department of Social Services and the North-Central Wisconsin Child Advocacy Center.
“Why would she make this up?” Uttke asked, explaining that in times of trauma, some discrepancies can be expected but that the girl’s main testimony was similar throughout.
“Why would she put herself through this if it wasn’t true?” he asked. “The only way you can find him not guilty is if you believe she lied through all of this.”
Attorney Paul countered, arguing that the girl got caught up in a lie and was forced to continue the falsehoods.
“She was stuck with it,” she told the jury. “The bottom line is that this is a ‘he said-she said’ case. There is no other evidence. You have to decide if you believe her.”
Much of the trial discussion centered on specific details including Poch’s whereabouts during the time of the alleged assault.
Michael Poch, 36, at defense table with his attorney, Shawn Paul, during the two-day trial.
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