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Van Hollen Applauds Supreme Court Decision Upholding Child Sexual Assault Conviction


"The Wisconsin Supreme Court's commonsense decision is a triumph of substance over form," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.


MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the second-degree child sexual assault conviction of Travis Vondell Cross in a St. Croix County case. 


In a lead opinion authored by Justice Michael J. Gableman, five justices held that when a defendant, like Cross, is mistakenly told by the circuit court "that he faces a maximum possible sentence that is higher, but not substantially higher, than that authorized by law," no due process violation has occurred so as require automatic plea withdrawal.  Instead, the defendant must show that plea withdrawal is necessary "to correct a manifest injustice," which Cross failed to do.  Two justices concurred in the decision on different grounds.


Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen applauded the decision, observing:  "The Wisconsin Supreme Court's commonsense decision is a triumph of substance over form and ensures that criminal defendants who solemnly plead guilty cannot later escape the consequences of doing so due to a technical error that could not reasonably have affected the plea decision."


Cross had been told that he faced a maximum sentence of 25 years' initial confinement and 15 years' extended supervision, when he actually faced a maximum sentence of 20 years' initial confinement and 10 years' extended supervision.  Cross ultimately was sentenced to 20 years' initial confinement followed by 10 years' extended supervision.


The St. Croix County District Attorney's Office prosecuted the case, and Assistant Attorney General James M. Freimuth represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


The decision may be found at the following link: