Charges added in case against fugitive found hiding in bunker

By  | 

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) Portage County judge Thomas Eagon is allowing prosecutors to bring nine additional counts of possession of child pornography against Jeremiah Button, a man accused of multiple sex crimes against children and who allegedly fled law enforcement for more than three years by living in a makeshift bunker in Ringle.

Burton’s rescheduled trial is set to start September 25 for the charges, after vanishing just weeks before his initial trial date in 2016.

A video interview testimony of the alleged victim when she was 14, by the Child Advocacy Center has been ruled inadmissible in the trial, due to state statute that prohibits its use after a victim turns 16 years of age. The ruling can be revisited if prosecutors are able to set a foundation for using the hearsay exception for the statute during trial. The judge noted that it was unfortunate that the original trial had been delayed by Button’s disappearance, stating the alleged victim is now just turned 19. The victim will be testifying during the trial, prosecutors say.

CAC interviews are key elements of child sex assault cases, and are conducted by trained forensic interviewers. State statute rules them inadmissible after 16; the alleged victim in the Button case would have been younger than 16 if the trial had not been delayed by more than three years with Button's disappearance.

Judge Eagon has allowed a motion to permit state prosecutors to bring evidence of flight against Button during the jury trial, but noted that it must be brief.

Portage County District Attorney Louis John Molepske outlined the case of his disappearance. "He indicated voluntarily to officers that he planned, once he posted the $25,000 cash bail, that he bought various provisions so that he could have a place to live, including $6,000 worth of canned goods. He had no intention of showing up to court," he noted.

An option of a plea deal remains on the table now that the new counts have been introduced. Button’s defense attorney Jessica Phelps noted that they have not seen picture evidence for the new child pornography counts, which prompted a heated exchange between Judge Eagon and the state prosecutor, who was ordered to ensure the defense views the pictures by Wednesday.

Jeremiah Button vanished two weeks before trial. Here's the bunker where he survived: click here.

Bunker first reported to law enforcement 9 months before Button's arrest: click here.

DNR finishes cleanup of bunker where fugitive hid for more than three years: click here.

Read the original version of this article at www.wsaw.com.