Original article no longer available
The Sheboygan Press (WI)
May 14, 2005
Author: Eric LaRose, Sheboygan Press Staff
A 37-year-old former Sheridan Elementary School teacher was sentenced Friday to six months in the Sheboygan County Jail for the second-degree sexual assault of a child.
John Brownell will have work release privileges and will be on probation for five years after he is released, Sheboygan County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Van Akkeren ruled.
Brownell, who now lives in the Fond du Lac County Town of Brandon, pleaded no contest in March to the felony charge for having sex with a 15-year-old girl he met in a tavern in October.
A bilingual teacher at Sheridan Elementary for five years, Brownell resigned from that job after the incident and began working as a carpenter.
Authorities said Brownell met the girl in the Second Home tavern at 2518 N. 15th St. on Oct 3. The girl was at the bar with members of her family and, according to testimony at Brownell’s preliminary hearing Oct. 13, the pair was seen leaving the tavern and walking hand-in-hand to Brownell’s apartment, which was across the street from the bar at that time.
An off-duty bartender at Second Home testified at the hearing that he went to Brownell’s apartment a short while later and found the two having sex. Brownell told police after he was arrested that he knew that the girl was a minor .
The girl was not one of Brownell’s students.
The defense later said that Brownell was under the influence of a mixture of alcohol and Paxil, a prescription drug for treating depression, which could have lowered his inhibitions.
During the sentencing hearing Friday, Brownell said that he was sorry about what happened and that his longtime abuse of alcohol was no excuse for his actions.
“I can’t blame anybody else but myself,” Brownell said.
Van Akkeren spoke at length about his thought process during sentencing, saying that he took into account the unfortunate decision to allow the victim to be introduced into the tavern environment and what appeared to be the defendant’s long-standing and hidden problem with alcohol.
“Alcohol certainly has had a devastating impact on his life and the lives of others,” Van Akkeren said.
As part of his sentence, Brownell will have to undergo counseling for alcohol and drug addiction. He is also forbidden from having any contact with the victim, cannot work or volunteer in a position which requires him to interact with children under the age of 16 and as a convicted felon he cannot own or possess a firearm or vote. He also must register as a sex offender.
Brownell is scheduled to report to jail in 30 days.
Prosecutor James Haasch said he was not surprised by the judge’s decision, even though he had recommended that Brownell be sentenced to three years in prison with an additional three years of extended supervision.
“I think it’s a very decent sentence,” said Haasch. “He left a lot of avenues open for Mr. Brownell to succeed, and if he doesn’t succeed, to do things accordingly with him.”
Second-degree sexual assault of a child is a felony, with a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, 15 years of extended supervision and a $100,000 fine.
Record Number: shb60416264
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