Man freed after 1994 rape conviction overturned

2013-07-13T05:45:00Z Man freed after 1994 rape conviction overturnedJENNIFER K. WOLDT | Oshkosh Northwestern Media madison.com

OSHKOSH — A man whose conviction for a 1991 rape was overturned in May was freed Friday after prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the case.

Joseph Frey, now 54, was charged with breaking into a UW-Oshkosh student’s apartment in 1991 and sexually assaulting her at knifepoint.

He was convicted on Feb. 2, 1994, by a Winnebago County jury despite his claims of innocence, the victim’s weak identification of him as the attacker, a lack of a DNA match and destruction by an Oshkosh Police detective of important evidence before the trial.

New tests of DNA found at the crime scene were performed after a request by the Wisconsin Innocence Project. The DNA was determined to match a man who, after the 1991 attack, went on to sexually assault two sisters, ages 12 and 13, in Fond du Lac. He has since died.

Prosecutors reviewed the evidence to determine whether to retry Frey after Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Bissett overturned the conviction at a May 22 hearing.

Winnebago County Assistant District Attorney Adam Levin said additional investigation by the Oshkosh Police Department and the State Crime Lab produced no new leads, and issues with existing evidence and the victim’s shaky identification of Frey led to his motion to dismiss the case.

“The remaining evidence, for me, is insufficient to retry this case,” Levin said.

Frey, who was being held at the Winnebago County Jail on a $100,000 cash bond since the conviction was overturned in May, was released from jail Friday morning.

Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project said Frey would be going to Madison, where he will receive assistance from a transitional housing program.

Frey is the 17th person whose conviction has been overturned since the Wisconsin Innocence Project began its work in 1998.

“It’s gratifying to see the truth emerge and the proper conclusion be reached in the end,” Findley said.

Frey made no comments during or after the hearing Friday, but his attorneys said he is grateful for the decision.

Winnebago County District Attorney Joe Paulus, who served six years in federal prison after admitting to state and federal charges that he fixed 22 criminal and traffic cases in exchange for bribes, oversaw the office that prosecuted Frey.

Frey’s was the second time a conviction has been overturned in which former Winnebago County Deputy District Attorney Vince Biskupic used unreliable testimony from a jailhouse informant and in which important evidence was withheld from the defense.

Biskupic, the former Outagamie County district attorney and one-time candidate for attorney general, is now an attorney in private practice in Appleton. He did not return email messages left with his office.

— State Journal reporter Dee J. Hall contributed to this report.

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