Downing man accused of child assault pleads not guilty

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  A 29-year-old Downing man accused of child sexual assault has pleaded not guilty in Dunn County Circuit Court and is scheduled for a jury trial in March.

Brian T. Kerns appeared for an arraignment hearing January 4 with his attorney, Scott Schlough, before Judge Rod Smeltzer.

[emember_protected] Kerns is charged with three Class C felonies related to the sexual assault of a girl who was 15 when the assaults started and 16 when the assaults ended.

Kerns appeared in court November 20 after being extradited to Wisconsin from Arkansas. A bench warrant was issued May 10 of this year.

Judge James Peterson set a cash bail of $25,000 at the November 20 hearing and ordered Kerns to have no contact with any girls under the age of 18.

Kerns made an initial appearance in court December 5, and following a preliminary hearing December 11, Judge Smeltzer found probable cause and bound Kerns over for trial.

Kerns was still in custody during the January 4 court hearing.

In addition to the three Class C felonies, Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf is seeking, upon conviction, to place Kerns on lifetime supervision as a sex offender.

According to the criminal complaint, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department learned in May about a woman who had reported to the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department that Kerns was engaging in inappropriate text messages and possibly had sexual contact with a teenaged girl.

When deputies were attempting to locate Kerns and checked the residence in Downing, they learned Kerns had left suddenly and that Kerns and his fiance had traveled to Arkansas in an attempt to flee the area, knowing Kerns was going to be taken into custody for sexual assault, according to the complaint.

Based on his investigation, the Dunn County deputy said Kerns had groomed and sexually assaulted the girl on numerous occasions, that he had used his vehicle to facilitate sex crimes and had used his Smartphone to lure the teenager to engage in sexual activity, the complaint states.

At the arraignment hearing January 4, Kerns requested a speedy trial, and Judge Smeltzer scheduled a trial in March to satisfy the requirements in state law for a speedy trial.

A final pre-trial in the case is scheduled for March 6.

A Class C felony carries a penalty, upon conviction, of a fine of up to $100,000 and/or a prison term of 40 years. [/emember_protected]