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Willie Gavin

Other Wisconsin Exonerees that Were Convicted of Child Sex Abuse that Never Occured
In April 1997, 37-year-old Willie Gavin was arrested in Kenosha, Wisconsin after his 11-year-old stepdaughter accused him of sexually molesting over a two-year period beginning in 1993, when she was seven years old.

Gavin said he was innocent, but ultimately, in October 1997, he pled no-contest in Kenosha County Circuit Court to sexually enticing a child and to first-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

In 2001, about a year before Gavin would be released, the complainant—by then 15 years old—wrote a letter to her pastor saying that there was no sexual abuse. She said she had been pressured by her foster mother to accuse Gavin of the sexual assaults.

The girl said she her foster mother had questioned her extensively and that the more she was questioned, the more she “felt pressured” to make the allegations, despite having told her foster mother initially that nothing had happened. She said that she “felt badly about (Gavin) going to prison because of her false statements.”

Gavin was released in 2002, placed on parole and required to register as a sex offender.

During the next several years, Gavin attempted to find an attorney to represent him, but did not succeed in obtaining representation until 2012. In January 2013, his lawyer, Christopher Rose, contacted the complainant who by then was in her 20’s. The woman said that she had recanted numerous times in the ensuing years to her aunts, her grandmother and to a cousin.

Based on the woman’s statement, Rose filed a motion requesting that Gavin be allowed to withdraw his no-contest plea. Kenosha County Circuit Judge Anthony Milisauskis conducted a hearing in April 2013, during which the woman testified and said that she had lied after being pressured by her foster mother.

In September 2013, Judge Milisauskis granted the motion saying the case was one of “manifest injustice” and vacated Gavin’s no-contest plea. In February 2014, the Kenosha County District Attorney, despite insisting that he believed Gavin was guilty, dismissed the charges.

In June 2015, the Wisconsin State Claims Board granted Gavin’s request for compensation. The Board granted Gavin $25,000—the maximum allowed under the state statute—plus $23,700 for legal fees and costs.

“There was no physical evidence produced at the time of the conviction…to substantiate the original conviction,” the Board said. “There was no credible reason for the recantation other than the fact that Mr. Gavin was innocent of the crime.”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/16/2015
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1995
Sentence:8 years
Age at the date of reported crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No