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October 16, 2019

9/30/2017 7:28:00 AM
Lee Lech makes initial appearance in Dane County sexual assault case

Heather Schaefer
Associate Editor

Former Oneida County sheriff's deputy Lee Lech made his initial appearance in Dane County Circuit Court Thursday to answer to a sexual assault charge.

According to online court records, Lech waived the reading of the charges - one count of second-degree sexual assault and one count of attempted second-degree sexual assault - and stood mute.

Two $500 signature bonds were set and a status conference was scheduled for Oct. 23.

Lech is accused of sexually assaulting a fellow officer while the two were in Madison for a training session in October 2011.

According to a criminal complaint filed Sept. 18, former Oneida County detective sergeant Sara Welcenbach brought the allegation to the attention of Dane County authorities on Nov. 29. 2016.

The River News does not normally identify alleged victims of sexual assault, however in court papers related to her federal lawsuit against Oneida County and sheriff Grady Hartman, Welcenbach publicly identified herself as the person who accused Lech of committing a sexual assault during an out-of-town training trip.

According to an officer's report attached to the criminal complaint, Welcenbach reported that she and Lech traveled to Madison on Oct. 17, 2011, in separate vehicles. After eating dinner at a restaurant and visiting a club, they returned to their hotel at approximately 4 a.m., she said.

When they arrived at the hotel, Lech asked if Welcenbach had any Alka-Seltzer and snacks in her room  She told him yes and showed him where the snacks were, the complaint states.

Welcenbach then alleges she went into the bathroom to change clothes and came back to find Lech lying in her bed.

"She asked the defendant, 'What are you doing?' The defendant told her he was going to watch TV," the complaint states.

Welcenbach then informed Lech she was going to bed and pulled the covers "up to her neck with her face and body facing away from the defendant," the complaint states. "The defendant started rubbing his fingers up and down her arm. She hit his hand away and told him to knock it off. The defendant said to her, 'Just kiss me.' She kissed him and when she tried to pull away after the kiss, the defendant wouldn't let her. The defendant pushed her on to her back on the bed and pulled the covers off her."

At that point, Welcenbach says Lech forcefully removed her shorts, held her down and raped her.

Later, after she curled into a fetal position at the end of the bed, Welcenbach claims Lech attempted to force her to perform oral sex on him.

"She refused to open her mouth," the complaint states. "She clenched her teeth and buried her head in the covers."

Lech then went into the bathroom and threw up, Welcenbach claims.

According to the complaint, Welcenbach saw a doctor after the alleged assault and injuries, including bruising on the inner upper right side of her thigh "the size of a 50-cent piece," were documented.

Neither officer is currently employed by Oneida County. Lech resigned after the rape allegation was brought to the sheriff's attention in August 2014.

Welcenbach was fired earlier this month following a days-long hearing before the Oneida County Law Enforcement Grievance Committee. That panel found her guilty of willful neglect of duty, general inefficiency and incompetence, conduct unbecoming an officer or detrimental to the service, and making a false official statement or entry in official records.

The most serious charge revolved around alleged missing monies in the county's drug unit, known as NORDEG.

In its findings on specific charges, the committee found that the evidence did not support the county's claim that Welcenbach committed any crime, such as theft of money - criminal charges related to the missing monies had also been previously dismissed - and it specifically and unanimously found that the evidence did not support the county's charge that Welcenbach took money from an envelope found in her desk drawer after she stopped working.

Still, there were other charges of missing money and duplicate entries in Welcenbach's money-box ledger - duplicate entries the county said should have thrown the account out of balance unless equal amounts of money were removed - that the committee found to justify her termination on other grounds.

After the committee announced its decision to terminate her, Welcenbach filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin asking for permission to amend the lawsuit she filed in April accusing Hartman and the county of illegally retaliating against after she initially refused to pursue sexual assault charges against Lech.

She has claimed Hartman demanded she file a complaint about the alleged rape so he would have a basis to deny Lech a promotion. Hartman has denied the allegation.

The amended complaint seeks to include her dismissal from the sheriff's department as a continuing part of the alleged retaliation.

In the federal lawsuit, Welcenbach is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, attorney fees, and all other damages available for violations of her rights to equal protection.

Welcenbach also has the option of appealing her termination to circuit court.

Lech, 45, faces a maximum of 60 years in prison if convicted of both felonies. As a condition of bond, he is to have no contact with Welcenbach.

Heather Schaefer may be reached at

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