A 53-year-old Park Falls man was sentenced to five years probation and seven months in jail at a sentencing hearing Tuesday after he had earlier pled no contest in a plea agreement to resolve charges arising from an Internet crimes against children sting in January 2019.
William C. Brunkow was charged with exposing a child to harmful material, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and child enticement, all felonies on Jan. 3, 2019. Brunkow traveled from his home in Price County to Rhinelander Jan. 2 to meet with what he believed to be a 14-year-old female for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts. The person he had been in communication with was actually an Oneida County Sheriff's detective who had been in contact with Brunkow for a week.
The case moved through the criminal justice system, eventually being set for a one-day jury trial on Jan. 23. At a pretrial conference on Nov. 12, Brunkow's attorney Daniel F. Snyder and assistant district attorney Mary Sowinski told judge Patrick O'Melia that while they had not resolved the case yet, the jury trial would not be needed.
On Jan. 14, Brunkow pled no contest to use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and child enticement and the other charge was dismissed. O'Melia accepted the plea agreement, and deferred entry of judgement on the use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime charge, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. O'Melia ordered the department of corrections conduct a pre-sentence investigation and set a March 10 date for sentencing.
On Tuesday, Sowinski told the judge that while Brunkow has no criminal record, "there was no mitigating information" that would offset the egregious nature of the crimes Brunkow admitted to committing.
"Your honor, I would note that Mr. Brunkow is like the other defendants who have come before the court for similar behavior is contributing to just a horrendous problem in this country and in this state, I'm referring to human trafficking," Sowinski said.
She said that Brunkow may not have been consciously aware of at the time he committed his crimes that this was the first step down a path toward trafficking, but he was.
"These young girls that are being trafficked by their pimps and others," Sowinski said.
She then recommended a sentence of three years in prison followed by seven years extended supervision.
Snyder argued that what his client didn't require a prison sentence, but a lengthy probation term. He argued the sentence recommended by both Sowinski and the author of the PSI report was overly harsh.
He said that while what Brunkow did was on a scale ranging from bad to really bad, it was not particularly heinous since there was no "real victim" involved.
"He (Brunkow) is not a defendant who preys upon a child for years," Snyder said. "Or a defendant that preys upon a young family member, a defendant that is out, if you will, trolling playgrounds looking for an opportunity. That is not Mr. Brunkow, that would be a child molester."
He cited case law that stipulates that when a person has been convicted of a crime, probation is the preferred first sentence option for a judge, unless the crime is severe or the public needs protection from the individual. Snyder said that neither Sowinski's or the PSI report's sentencing recommendation failed to take that into account.
Snyder added that if Brunkow were sentenced to jail instead of prison, he would be able to maintain his employment under Huber provisions and continue to support his family.
"If you send Mr. Brunkow to prison, he will come out worse than when he went in," Snyder said.
O'Melia noted that Brunkow has several sentencing factors that must be taken into account at sentencing, although the gravity of the offense was a big strike against him. He added that he carefully weighs all factors in a sentence he imposes, and that is why the sentences for two people convicted of the same crime is often different unless a mandatory minimum sentence is called for under state law.
"I sentence defendants, not crimes," O'Melia said.
He said during his career as a lawyer, DA and judge, he has seen a lot of sentencing recommendations in PSI reports.
"It's hard not to go to the back page (for the recommendation)," O'Melia said. "I like to read them like a novel."
The judge said he was surprised by the recommendation for time in prison in the report, agreeing with Snyder that Brunkow would come out worse then when he entered prison.
O'Melia then announced that he was going to withhold sentence on the child enticement charge and placed Brunkow on probation for five years, with seven months incarceration.
O'Melia also ordered a $1,000 fine plus court costs, to be taken of the $10,000 cash bond he paid in the case.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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