June 5, 2012 – A 17-year-old boy that got his 14-year-old girlfriend pregnant recently lost his appeal challenging a sexual assault conviction and 20-year sentence.
Brown County prosecutors charged 17-year-old Loren Sero III for sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age after a paternity test revealed he fathered the child of a 14-year-old girl, Christina, who testified to having a romantic relationship with Sero for the previous two years. Prosecutors filed charges when Christina was 14. She had the baby at age 15.
Apparently, Sero personally rejected an offer to plead guilty or no contest and receive no more than nine months in jail. The case went to trial, which led to a jury conviction and subsequent eight-year prison sentence with 12 years extended supervision.
Sero appealed, arguing that his attorney was ineffective during plea negotiations. But in State v. Sero, 2011AP1402-CR (June 5, 2012), the District III Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued a per curiam opinion rejecting Sero’s argument and upholding his conviction and sentence.
The appeals court found nothing in the record to suggest that Sero’s attorney, Raj Kumar Singh, discouraged Sero from accepting the plea. “Sero knew he had been adjudicated the father of the child based on the DNA test,” the opinion states. “He does not claim he did not know the elements of the offense and the potential penalties.”
At the post-conviction hearing, Singh explained that he had hoped the jury would refuse to treat the case as a criminal matter after portraying the teenagers as a young couple in love. In other words, Singh hoped the jury would nullify the charge against his client.
“Because Sero had no legal defense to the charge and refused to accept the plea offer, pursuing a nullification defense constituted a reasonable trial strategy,” the opinion states. “Sero was not prejudiced by Singh’s choice of a nullification defense because Sero had no other defense."
Joe Forward is the Legal Writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin.