By Jacob Mathias
The trial of a Bancroft man accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl began Thursday.
Michael Petta, 57, has been charged with one count of 1st degree felony child sexual assault for sexually assaulting a female family member under the age of 13.
Petta was charged with the felony after a the girl told sheriff’s deputies he had touched her genital area while she was in bed in March of 2014. After collecting the necessary evidence Petta was arrested in July.
The 12-member jury on Thursday heard opening statements from Portage County Assistant District Attorney Cass Cousins and Gary Kryshak, Petta’s defense attorney.
“It’s every parent’s worst fear to be told your child’s been sexually assaulted,” said Cousins. “This is a case that’s about worst fears.”
“The burden of proof is completely on the State of Wisconsin,” said Kryshak, telling the jury his client was innocent until proven guilty.
“In sexual assault cases, I sometimes wonder if the defendant isn’t required to prove his innocence,” said Kryshak.
Petta was attentive but silent during the proceedings, showing no reaction or emotion to testimony.
Witnesses on Thursday included Petta’s ex-wife, who testified she had suspicions about her then-husband’s behavior. She testified another family member alleged a complaint of assault 13 years ago, but that incident stayed in the family and was never reported to authorities.
This time around, she said she reached out to the young family member, who confirmed Petta’s actions. The ex-wife said she then called police.
Petta is also facing charges in Wood County for repeated sexual assault of the same child stemming from a series of incidents in 2008.
The trial continues Friday. If convicted he faces up to 60 years in prison.