Richard Beranek

Richard Beranek, left, whose sexual assault convictions were overturned in June, appears in court Thursday with lawyers Dean Strang, middle, and Bryce Benjet.

State prosecutors were given four months on Thursday to decide whether they would re-try a man released from prison after his convictions for a 1987 rape in rural Stoughton were overturned.

Richard Beranek, 59, who now lives with his mother, brother and daughter in rural Portage County, was released from prison after serving 27 years of a 243-year sentence for the rape of a woman that occurred in the town of Pleasant Springs.

In June, Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser found that new hair and DNA evidence called into question the convictions. About two weeks later, Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara ordered Beranek released on a signature bond while prosecutors decided whether to re-try him, and Beranek left custody for the first time in decades.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in court Thursday that a Dane County Sheriff’s Office detective has been assigned to the case, replacing the now-retired detective who headed the original investigation. That detective will assess the evidence and will contact the victim, and will “figure out whether the case is still viable,” Ozanne said.

Prosecutors won’t appeal Moeser’s decision. Ozanne said there was some confusion about whether the state Department of Justice was to decide whether to appeal or whether it was up to his office. In any case, he said, “I don’t see that we have reason to appeal, so we won’t.”

Ozanne appeared in court with Assistant District Attorney Erin Hanson. The original prosecutor on the case, Robert Kaiser, now a state assistant attorney general, won’t be part of the team if the case is re-tried. He represented the state during Beranek’s successful attempt to overturn his convictions. Last month, DOJ informed Ozanne that Kaiser would not be available to work any further on the case.

Madison lawyer Dean Strang has also joined Beranek’s defense team, working with lawyers from the Innocence Project who secured Beranek’s freedom.


Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.