Former Wheeler police chief sentenced to 14 years in prison, 16 years probation

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — Former Wheeler Police Chief Gary Wayerski has been sentenced to 14 years in prison and 16 years of probation for his conviction on 16 felonies related to sex crimes involving teenaged boys.

Wayerski, 57, appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing before the Honorable William Stewart on January 9 along with his attorney, Lester Liptak.

Wayerski was convicted by a Dunn County jury on October 12, 2012, of two counts of child enticement, two counts of a child as actor, two counts of exposing a child to harmful material, two counts of causing a child 13 to 18 years of age to view sexual activity, and eights counts of the sexual assault of a child by a person who works or volunteers with children.

Wayerski, who worked part-time as police officer in Colfax for nine months in 2009 and later worked part-time as a police officer in Boyceville, was arrested July 18, 2011, in a cemetery in St. Croix County where he had intended to kill himself.

Police chief

The Village of Wheeler had initially hired Wayerski to work as the police chief for four hours per week after Wayerski had approached the village and said he needed to do law enforcement work to maintain his police certification.

Wayerski volunteered more hours of his time, and in December of 2010, the Wheeler Village Board increased Wayerski’s hours to 20 per week. Only a short time before Wayerski was arrested, a group of Wheeler residents had attended a village board meeting in support of Wayerski and to ask if it would be possible to increase his employment to full time because a recent series of burglaries had left them feeling uneasy and because Wayerski seemed to have a good rapport with village residents of all ages.

Wayerski initially met one of the teenagers, who were 16 and 17 at the time they were sexually abused, at the gas station in Wheeler and met the other teenager after he had burglarized the Nazarene Church. Wayerski also arrested the boy he had met at the gas station for stealing an MP3 player from his employer.

Both boys reportedly had problems with drugs and alcohol, and Wayerski testified at his October trial that the boys’ parents were “at their wits end” and wondered if Wayerski could supervise them and mentor them.

The sexual abuse occurred at Wayerski’s apartment in Menomonie.

Because of Wayerski’s job as a police officer in Dunn County and cases that were pending, a special prosecutor from Eau Claire County, Ben Webster, prosecuted the case.

Denial

During the January 9 sentencing hearing, Wayerski continued to deny that he had ever given the teenaged boys alcohol and denied that he had sexually abused them over a four-month period between March and July of 2011.

“(Wayerski) has been 100 percent consistent in his story from Day 1 … (he has) consistently said he was not guilty,” Liptak said.

Wayerski’s mother, Bernadine Wayerski, 81, attended the sentencing hearing and addressed the court.

Judge Stewart noted that Bernadine Wayerski had sent a four-page handwritten letter to the court.

“I know what he is like and what his intentions are. (I do not believe) the detailed allegations … maybe not in my lifetime or in his lifetime, but the truth will come out and justice will be served,” Bernadine Wayerski told the court.

Wayerski’s younger brother, David, addressed the court as well.

“Gary is resigned (to his conviction) … (but) in due time, the truth will come out. He wants to regain the respect of the community,” David Wayerski said.

Set-up

Gary Wayerski contends that he was set up and that the boys concocted a story of sexual abuse to get Wayerski “out of the way” and to draw attention away from drug activity in Wheeler.

“I want the truth to come out before I die … I did not do what the jury believes … they have not heard the entire story … I am not a monster,” Wayerski said.

Wayerski objected to the fact that the pre-sentence investigation report did not say “anything good” about him and told the court about a variety of incidents that occurred when he worked in law enforcement when he had saved people’s lives or had kept people from hurting themselves or someone else.

“I am no monster. I would give up my life to save anyone here,” he said.

Certain people in the Wheeler area wanted to “take me down,” Wayerski said, adding that there had been threats against his life and that he had heard about a meeting where the options were to either shoot him or to set him up and that the decision had been made to set him up.

Wayerski said he had vowed to the Wheeler Village Board that he would try to get rid of the drugs in Wheeler.

People will “kill over drugs, so they can sure set you up,” Wayerski said.

Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith attended the sentencing hearing, and at one point, Wayerski turned and addressed Sheriff Smith.

“I am sorry … I did not want to tarnish your badges … you are honorable, great people, and I pray you stay safe … All I wanted to do was to make the community safe and get rid of the damned drugs,” Wayerski said.

Wayerski noted that he had coached high school sports for a number of years and said that no complaints about him had been filed with any of the school districts.

Jury

At one point in the case, Wayerski’s attorney petitioned the court for a change of venue.

Judge Stewart said he had given the request for a change of venue careful consideration and concluded that a fair and impartial jury could be found in Dunn County without taking the trial to another county or bringing in jurors from another county.

Wayerski, his mother and his brother believe that Wayerski’s conviction was the result of a set-up, Judge Stewart said.

The jury was exposed to some of the testimony about a set-up, decided what weight to give the testimony, and spoke on the issue by rendering a guilty verdict, he said.

“That’s why we have an appellate court, but the jury (in Dunn County) was not persuaded,” Judge Stewart said.

Gravity

The gravity of 16 felonies, the character of the defendant, the potential and need for rehabilitation and the need to protect the public are all factors that must be considered in sentencing, Judge Stewart said.

The improper use of Wayerski’s authority as a police chief elevates the gravity of the case, he said.

Wayerski also “groomed” the two teenagers over a period of time, planned the abuse, and then executed the plan, Judge Stewart said.

The boys’ parents knew their sons were not “cherubs,” and they trusted Wayerski to help, he said.

The impact on the victims will be lifelong, and the two teenagers will not have trust for authority or anyone else, Judge Stewart said.

“It’s not something that goes away. It’s there for a lifetime,” he said.

Judge Stewart said there was no doubt in his mind that Wayerski had done many good deeds as a police officer and that he had saved lives, protected people and protected property.

But law enforcement officers take “a sacred oath” that creates certain obligations and holds officers to a higher standard, he said.

People expect law enforcement “will act impeccably … you violated the responsibility you had,” Judge Stewart said.

Pornography

Wayerski has admitted that he is a “pornography addict.”

Approximately 100,000 pornographic images were found on Wayerski’s computer.

The addiction to pornography did not start in 2009 or 2010, but it is an addiction Wayerski has had for a long time, Judge Stewart said.

“Pornography is a dangerous thing. It is not a sedative to help you sleep. If you think it is, then you have a problem,” he said.

A substantial amount of the pornography found depicts the same conduct of which Wayerski was convicted at trial, Judge Stewart said.

“I find that it’s more than coincidence,” he said.

Wayerski had asked that Judge Stewart sentence him to jail time and not prison time.

Judge Stewart said that sentencing Wayerski to county jail time would send a message to the public — that if someone wants to perpetrate sex crimes against young people, “if the kids are not of sterling character, it’s not that bad because the kids are bad,” he said.

During a court hearing in October of 2011, Webster said Wayerski had been employed part-time with the Pepin County Sheriff’s Department beginning in October of 2004 and became a full-time employee in February of 2006. He resigned from the Pepin County Sheriff’s Department in September of 2007 after inappropriate pornographic material was discovered in the recycle bin under his profile for the computer in the dispatch office.

Sentence

On the first two felony counts of child enticement, Judge Stewart sentenced Wayerski to 15 years in state prison for each count, with seven years of initial confinement and eight years of extended supervision.

The sentences for the first two counts are to run consecutively.

In addition to the 14 years in prison and 16 years of probation, Judge Stewart sentenced Wayerski on counts three through six to three years in prison, with one year of initial confinement and two years of extended supervision on each count, and on counts seven and eight, four years in prison, with three years of initial confinement and one year of extended supervision on each count, and on counts nine through 16, six years in prison, with three years of initial confinement and three years of extended supervision for each count.

The sentence for counts three through 16 are to run concurrently with the sentence for the first two counts.

Judge Stewart also ordered Wayerski to register as a sex offender, to register for sex offender assessment and evaluation and to follow all recommendations; to submit DNA samples and pay the surcharge; to have no contact with the victims or their families, either directly or indirectly or through a third party; no contact with anyone under the age of 18 unless approved by a probation officer.

Judge Stewart left the issue of restitution open for two years and waived court costs that would have amounted to over $4,000.

While on extended supervision, Wayerski is ordered to seek and maintain employment.

Judge Stewart also ordered that Wayerski be given 531 days credit for time served and ordered him to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases and that the test results be provided to the victims.

The maximum penalty for the first two felonies is a fine of up to $100,000 and 25 years in prison for each count. The next four felonies carry terms of up to a $10,000 fine for each count and three years and six months of prison for each count. The remaining ten felonies carry a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and six years in prison for each count.

It is expected that Wayerski most likely will appeal his conviction.

Bernadine Wayerski has asked that her son’s service revolver be returned to her because she and other family members helped pay for it.

The service revolver is being held in St. Croix County, and the weapon is scheduled to be destroyed in St. Croix County, Liptak noted.

Judge Stewart said that after a background check on Bernadine Wayerski comes back clear, the revolver would be released to her.