A Friesland man who has been in jail since his arrest Tuesday on charges of sexually assaulting a young relative over several years in the 1990s appeared in court Thursday, facing a potential maximum sentence of 120 years in prison.
Enos Bontrager, 48, is charged with four counts of sexual assault of a child under 13 years old, two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, and one count of sexual assault of a child under 16.
“This kind of vile, heinous, reprehensible behavior is just something that should not happen in our society,” said Assistant District Attorney Cliff Burdon. “This happened over half a decade from the early ‘90s until roughly 1997. We look to our family for trust, not to be the subject of victimization.”
In the time since the alleged offenses, Wisconsin law has changed regarding sexual assault as a repeated offense. The case was charged as seven separate offenses from each year.
“So I feel that with each of those seven counts, $10,000 cash would be appropriate. We’re asking for $70,000 cash bond,” said Burdon. “He’s facing 120 years in prison, so he is clearly a flight risk. He is also a danger to the public because he has gone unchecked all these years with this behavior.”
The case was opened July 22 when the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a woman reporting a series of incidents beginning when she was 9 years old until she was 16 or 17. The woman had not told anyone about the experiences until about two months earlier, a deputy reported, as the woman explained that it came out while being treated for depression.
The criminal complaint included what were reportedly second-hand texts from the month before contact with authorities — messages passed through an intermediary and texted to the alleged victim, from Bontrager and his wife, expressing sympathy, regret and concern.
“Mr. Bontrager is 48 years old and has lived in Friesland since 1989,” said defense attorney Nathaniel Wojan. “He has been married for 30 years and they are currently transitioning residences to the Fond du Lac area.”
Acknowledging the seriousness of the charges, but saying that the most recent allegation was from nearly 20 years ago, Wojan asked for cash bond to be set at $10,000 to $15,000.
“Although he has a lot of years he could serve if he is convicted of all counts,” said Judge Alan White, “he has been a resident here for many years and has a business here. Cash bail is going to be set at $20,000.”
Bontrager is scheduled to next appear in court Nov. 29.