A Salem man was aquitted of very serious sexual assault charges last Thursday after a two and a half day jury trial. Tyler J. Tess, 39, of Salem, was released from the Kenosha County Jail at 2:47 pm Thursday – just over an hour after jurors set him free. Tess had been in custody holding on a $100,000 cash bail since August 25, 2022. One juror said that she felt joy sending the man home from jail. Tess was originally charged with eight serious sex-related felonies on August 26, 2022. He was facing 207 years in the Wisconsin prison system.
The prosecutor decided to only go to trial on the two most serious charges last Monday. With the two charges remaining, Tess still faced 80 years in prison for allegations of sexual assault that prosecutors say occurred in the summer of 2022.
Lining the front of the courthouse Monday morning was a large group of bikers volunteering for the “Guardians of the Children.” The mission of Guardians of the Children is to recognize and react to child abuse and educate the public to do the same; to serve as advocates to provide strength and stability to families in crisis; and be an answer to the prayer of an abused child or teen for courage, support, and protection. A few members sat on either side of the complaining witness throughout the trial. A juror told KCE that the group was a “little intimidating the first day,” because there were many of them in the courtroom Monday.
The criminal complaint, obtained by KCE, showed an up-hill case for prosecutors. The alleged victim in this case was known to fabricate stories about others for attention and revenge. There were more exculpatory details in the court document.
KCE spoke to two jurors about their opinions on the case. The jurors, both women, told KCE the same story – this case should not have been prosecuted at all and was a weak case. They said the credibility issues from the alleged victim were overpowering. “Three different witnesses took the stand and told us the victim lied habitually.”
When asked about the attorneys’ performance during trial, one juror gave defense attorney John Ward a C+, saying he didn’t seem like he was in his wheelhouse, but did the best he could. She gave the Kenosha County DA’s office an F, saying that the case was so thin, that she didn’t believe the charges should have been filed at all. She also said that the prosecutor was trying to lead witnesses to say what she wanted, as opposed to the truth.
At one time during the trial, a Kenosha County Sheriff’s Deputy got the attention of the presiding judge, Jason Rossell. He told the judge that the alleged victim and one of her relatives seemed to be directing a witness on how to answer questions during testimony. Rossell removed the two from the courtroom for the rest of the witness’ testimony. The jury was confused about coming back into the courtroom and seeing the two were gone. Once I told them why, they weren’t surprised.
“Then, during the closing arguments, the prosecutor was mischaracterizing the evidence. The prosecutor wanted us to believe what she was telling us and not our ‘lying ears,’ “ a woman juror told KCE Tuesday. “I know [closing arguments] are not evidence, but it wasn’t right.”
Finally, when asked what the prosecution could do better, the juror’s reply was simple, – “make sure your case is solid before coming to trial,” she said.
Attempts to reach Tess were unsuccessful. KCE would like to speak with Mr. Tess.
The Kenosha County DA’s office did win some trials last week. ADA Jessica Krejcarek won a guilty verdict in the sexual assault case of State v. Raphael Reyes Reyes. This wasn’t an easy case for prosecutors, as there was no confession or DNA evidence.
DDA Carli McNeil and ADA Emily Gaertner secured a murder conviction in the State v. Joey Miracle.