Wisconsin prosecutor accused of having sex with defendants

Posted at 7:08 AM, February 9, 2021 and last updated 8:28 PM, July 19, 2023

By TODD RICHMOND Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A northwestern Wisconsin prosecutor has been charged with secretly recording sexual encounters he had with two women after allegedly making them believe he could help them with their criminal cases.

Chris Ryan via Getty Images

Attorneys from the state Department of Justice charged Burnett County Assistant District Attorney Daniel Steffen on Friday with three felony counts of representations depicting nudity, online court records show.

Steffen, 50, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was “anxious for the truth to come out.” His attorney, Bruce Patrick Anderson, declined to comment when reached Monday by The Associated Press.

According to the criminal complaint, a state Department of Justice agent began investigating Steffen in early 2020. A witness told the agent that a woman the witness knew had openly talked about having sex with Steffen in exchange for leniency on her pending criminal cases.

The agent spoke with the woman in jail last February. The woman said she had only met Steffen a couple times in court and denied having a relationship with him. She said she had several cases pending and ended up paying a fine.

The agent went back to the woman in May, this time at her house, according to the complaint. She acknowledged a relationship with Steffen, saying she met him at a pretrial conference while she was facing charges for violating a restraining order. Steffen was handling the prosecution, she said. They had sex several times at his home and in his office during work hours, she said.

Investigators searched Steffen’s home in Osceola in October and found an iPad in his bedroom dresser, according to the complaint. The device contained videos of Steffen and the woman having sex in August and September of 2018 in his bedroom.

The woman told the agent that she wasn’t aware he was filming the encounters. At one point in the the August video, Steffen looked at the camera, stuck his tongue out and winked several times.

The iPad also contained another video of Steffen having sex with a different woman in his bedroom in February 2018. They could be heard talking about how she could avoid charges for hitting a mailbox.

This woman told the agent that she met Steffen through a mutual acquaintance and developed a relationship of mostly “hookups” in 2018. She said the video was likely the first time she had sex with him and that she had gone to his house to “drink, relax and talk to the defendant about her recent breakup.” She said she wasn’t aware he had filmed the encounter.

The complaint doesn’t say if Steffen helped either woman with their cases. Department of Justice spokeswoman Gillian Drummond declined to comment.

Burnett County District Attorney James Jay Rennicke didn’t reply to a message seeking further information about the case. The district attorney’s office’s legal secretary, Jean Giller, said Steffen has been placed on administrative leave.

The case echoes that of Calumet County’s former district attorney, Ken Kratz, who resigned in 2010 after the AP reported he had sent 30 text messages trying to strike up an affair with a domestic abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on a strangulation charges.

Steffen served as Burnett County’s district attorney for 10 years before he lost a reelection bid in 2016. He pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct in Dane County in 2019.

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