Guilty verdict in sexual assault case

ESCANABA – A Wisconsin man faces life in prison for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl two years ago in Masonville Township. The conviction was announced Friday in Delta County Circuit Court.

After deliberating for less than two hours, a jury found Justin Dylan Smith, 29, of Sheboygan, Wis., guilty of one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The felony carries a maximum punishment of life in prison.

The seven-woman, five-man jury also found Smith not guilty of a second count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving the same female victim.

Smith was charged with the two felonies for engaging in sexual penetration of a victim under the age of 13 years. The charges stem from incidents in Rapid River in November 2011.

The three-day trial began Wednesday with Judge Stephen Davis presiding. Seven witnesses testified including the victim and two relatives.

Other witnesses included law enforcement from Delta County and Sheboygan. An advocate for abused children also testified. Smith was questioned on the stand Thursday.

Closing statements were presented Friday morning by County Prosecutor Steve Parks and Defense Attorney John M. Bergman.

Parks reminded the jury that the victim was 11 years old when she was sexually assaulted two years ago by Smith. Parks said the girl and another victim reported the sexual abuse to police because they wanted justice.

Bergman told jurors there are too many inconsistencies in the victim’s testimony to reach guilty verdicts. The attorney said the victim’s story didn’t hold up “because it’s tough to keep a lie going.”

Following closing statements, the jury began deliberations at 9:34 a.m. Jurors returned to the court with the two verdicts shortly before 11:30 a.m.

Smith’s sentencing is set for July 8 in circuit court.