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Former Menominee sheriff’s officer takes plea baragin

MENOMINEE — A former Menominee County Sheriff’s Department officer accused of criminal sexual conduct has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

In a plea bargain agreement, Brian Helfert, 57, of Menominee, pleaded guilty to attempted accosting for immoral purposes — a high court misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to two years imprisonment. The prosecution has agreed to a county jail sentence of 0-6 months under the plea bargain, according to court documents. He was originally charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, third degree — a felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment.

Helfert will be sentenced Dec. 4.

Helfert was bound over from district court to circuit court in February on two counts of criminal sexual conduct, third degree. During the February bindover hearing, the victim said the assault took place at Helfert’s home on Nov. 10, 2019.

Helfert knew the victim through his assignment as a Menominee County juvenile crime investigator and school resource officer. The victim also claimed he knew Helfert outside of school and the mentorship, stating he did have a friendship with Helfert.

At the Feb. 18 hearing, the victim said Helfert had told him after the assault they were to set up prices for future explicit contact. Helfert then brought the victim to McDonald’s and purchased him food before bringing him home.

The victim said he contacted his girlfriend that night and told her about the assault, but did not tell an adult until he went to school the next day. He was then brought to St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, where he was examined and talked to medical professionals about the incident.

Helfert was fired from the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department on Dec. 19, 2019, following an investigation for violations of office policies, procedures and rules of conduct. He posted bond and was released from custody when he was first charged in January.

Helfert’s trial was originally scheduled to take place Oct. 13 through 16, but a motion filed in September by Menominee County Prosecutor Jeffery T. Rogg requested the trial be adjourned.

Rogg’s motion — which was largely similar to a motion put forth by the defense in the unrelated Gary Phillips-Donovan open murder case that was also adjourned — argued that Michigan’s mask mandate would interfere with jury selection, witness examination and the jury deliberation process.

Rogg went on to write that COVID-19 infection rates and recent fatalities in Menominee County and in nearby Suamico, Wis. could have an impact on the ability to fairly try the case.

“Thus, Michigan statistics alone, as may be relied upon by the SCAO (State Court Administrative Office) in determining ‘safe’ trial accommodations, cannot be relied upon to the extent that the Wisconsin pandemic situation is not properly accounted for,” Rogg wrote.

Judge Christopher Ninomiya granted the motion, but no new trial date was been set. At that time, Rogg told the Daily Press that plea negotiations are still ongoing in the case.

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