Prosecution of 14 men caught in Rice Lake Police Department child sex sting operations since February 2018 has hit the halfway mark. 

The seventh and eighth men sentenced each received time in prison. 

Gene R. Lundequam, 66, of Barron was sentenced on July 26 to 3 years.

Jay A. Hoppe, 36, of  Baldwin was sentenced on July 24 to 5 years.

Both men will be on probation following release.

The sting investigations have resulted in charges against 14 men.

RLPD Captain Tracy Hom said he never would have imagined that number of arrests, especially making 13 in 6 months. 

Hom said the work of police officers and the district attorney’s office has sent a message to potential offenders-—no new charges have been filed since March. 

Eight men have been sentenced to prison time, including a former high school tennis coach and a former school teacher. 

Five men await sentencing on plea deals, and one man has a plea hearing set.  

Assuming that hearing results in a deal, 11 of the 14 men will have pleaded guilty in exchanged for dismissed charges. 

To encourage plea deals, prosecutors have dropped the charge of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime— which carries a 5-year minimum mandatory sentence.  

Assistant District Attorney John O’Boyle said the state’s offer to dismiss the computer charge in exchange for a plea has been consistent for each sex sting case. 

The five men who have been sentenced on deals have received a mean of 3 years initial confinement, with only one receiving 5 years. 

Three men took their cases to trial, and each was found guilty on all charges and sentenced at least on the mandatory minimum.

That included Hoppe, who was sentenced to 5 years July 24 after a jury trial in June. 

Hoppe’s lawyer said although his client had been found guilty of serious crimes, the proper sentence would be probation—if there were no minimum requirements. Hoppe had no prior criminal record. 

At sentencing, Barron County Court Judge James Babler said the most important issue was protection of the public and stressed that computer crimes involve coercing children with private communications away from their parents.

“I don’t have any choice,” he said of his sentence, “I’m just saying I agree [with the statute].”

No minimum is set for plea deals, and lawyers have argued that their clients not only can be given probation sentences, they should.

Lundequam’s lawyer argued that probation would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense. Lundequam had no prior criminal history.

During his sentencing, Judge Michael Bitney said he agreed that the idea of depreciation is subjective, but probation would depreciate this sentence.

All three judges of the Barron County Circuit Court-—Babler, Bitney and Judge Maureen Boyle—have presided over sex sting cases and sentenced men with plea deals to prison. 

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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