Early this month, a state appeals court upheld the conviction of Joseph Bong, 31, on multiple felony counts for a 1997 sexual assault of a Madison woman named Patty.
Bong, represented by attorney Joseph Sommers, appealed his 2004 conviction on grounds of evidentiary error and ineffective assistance of counsel. He claimed his defense was undermined when the trial judge disallowed testimony that Bong and Patty's daughter had prior sexual contact.
The Dist. 4 Court of Appeals unanimously rejected this argument. It ruled that the probative value of this evidence was "substantially outweighed by the risk of confusing the central issue at trial - namely, how Bong's semen got onto Patricia's bed sheet."
The court noted that the admitted sexual contact with Patty's daughter happened long before the assault and there was no compelling evidence the two ever had sex in Patty's bedroom, where Bong's semen was found. And Bong's semen and DNA from Patty turned up in the same sample.
For this defense to succeed, the court wrote, the jury would have to "find that Bong's semen had coincidentally mixed with a bodily secretion from Patricia on the sheet without any DNA contribution from [her daughter]." (For the ruling, see this item at TheDailyPage.com.)
The court's ruling echoes the jury's. In interviews after the verdict, jurors said they suspected a sexual relationship between Patty's daughter and Bong but did consider this relevant, especially in light of the mixed DNA sample.
Patty, as Isthmus readers may recall, was disbelieved by Madison police and pressured to recant, then charged with a crime when she insisted she was the victim of rape. The charges were eventually dropped, but police continued to suggest Patty lied, aggressively fought her complaints against them, and testified as defense witnesses for Bong.
The story of Patty's ordeal is recounted in the 2006 book, Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice, published by the University of Wisconsin Press. The author, who also writes Isthmus' popular "Watchdog" column, will read from the new paperback edition at Border's West on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 7 p.m.