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Court rules for retrial of sexual assault conviction

Menomonie — A man convicted of assaulting a teen-age girl deserves a new trial because a circuit court judge allowed jurors to hear about the defendant’s background, an appellate court ruled Tuesday.Judge Thomas Cane dissented from the 2-1 3rd District Court of Appeals in Wausau ruling. Cane said the man’s history was unimportant in comparison to the trial evidence.Darrin E. Parnell, 29, of Menomonie, accused of attacking a 17-year-old girl, was convicted of second-degree sexual assault and false imprisonment.Reserve Judge John G. Bartholomew sentenced Parnell in September 1998 to 15 years, plus five years of probation for causing a minor to view sexual activity.Parnell’s appeal argued it was wrong to allow evidence of domestic violence.“We conclude that the errors were not harmless and that the cumulative effect of the other acts deprived Parnell of a fair trial,” the appellate court said.In his dissent, Cane said evidence supports a statement from a witness that a group run by Parnell was not peaceful and fun-loving.Cane listed 15 arguments by the Dunn County prosecution including Parnell’s organizing the group to smoke marijuana and have sex.Parnell and his girlfriend pressured witnesses, falsified documents and lied to police, prosecutors said.“I would conclude that, even though the evidence should not have been admitted, it is harmless because there is no reasonable probability it contributed to the convictions,” Cane wrote.

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