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Ronald McCallum

Other Wisconsin exonerations
On February 22, 1993, a 13-year-old girl reported to police in Green Bay, Wisconsin that her mother’s live-in boyfriend, Ronald V. McCallum, had sexually assaulted her.

The girl, identified as H.L., said that on February 14, 1993, McCallum spied on her while she was undressing and that he grabbed her breast as she walked from the bathroom to her bedroom. McCallum and H.L.’s mother, Sandra, had been dating for over six years, and were living together. At the time, Sandra was divorcing H.L.’s father.

McCallum denied the accusation to police. He was arrested on February 26, 1993, on a charge of second-degree sexual assault of a minor.

During a preliminary hearing on March 13, 1993, in Brown County Circuit Court, H.L. testified that McCallum had grabbed her breast and watched her undress while the two were home alone. H.L.’s mother worked nights.

On May 19, 1993, McCallum, 28, entered an Alford plea to a charge of second-degree sexual assault of a minor. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain innocence but concede that the prosecution has evidence that would be sufficient for a conviction if the case went to trial. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Peter Naze sentenced McCallum to six months in jail and three years of probation.

McCallum served his six months in jail and was still on probation when, in May 1994, H.L. confided to her mother that her accusation against McCallum was a lie. Her mother told her to write a letter to McCallum’s lawyer, Steven Miller, and confess. In the letter, H.L. explained that she had not only lied about the assault, but that she specifically made the allegation at a time when they were alone in the home so that McCallum didn’t have a witness to back up his story. She apologized and asked for forgiveness.

Based on the recantation, McCallum moved to withdraw his plea. During a hearing before Judge Naze, H.L. testified that at the time, her mother worked nights and McCallum was responsible for much of the discipline around the house. She said she made the false accusation after he grounded her for three months for disobeying house rules.

H.L. said that she resented McCallum because she thought he was taking her father’s place. She testified that she believed McCallum was responsible for her parents getting a divorce, and she hoped that if she got McCallum out of the house, her parents would reconcile.

Sandra testified that H.L. had been acting out around the time of the accusations and was having a hard time handling the divorce proceedings. Sandra testified that her daughter had been skipping school and repeatedly had been disobedient. She said she had been skeptical of H.L.’s accusation at the time, but ultimately decided to support her.

Judge Naze denied McCallum’s motion to withdraw his plea. Judge Naze found that H.L.’s recantation of the accusation was “less credible” than her original allegation. He ruled that there was no reasonable probability that a new trial would result in a different verdict.

McCallum appealed and in November of 1995, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed Judge Naze. The appeals court ruled, “We conclude that a reasonable jury could believe the recantation because it is internally consistent, was given under oath, and H.L. was advised of the criminal consequences if the initial allegation was false.”

The prosecution appealed that ruling. In April 1997, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concurred that Judge Naze had applied the wrong legal standard in concluding that H.L.’s recantation was “less credible” than her original accusation. But instead of upholding the order for a new trial, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s grant of a new trial and sent the case back to the Circuit Court. The Supreme Court directed Judge Naze to “apply the proper legal standard to determine whether McCallum should be allowed to withdraw his plea.”

In July 1997, Judge Naze granted McCallum’s motion to withdraw his plea.

On August 29, 1997, Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski dismissed the case.

– Maurice Possley and Kimberly Milton

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Posting Date: 7/26/2021
Last Updated: 7/26/2021
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Sentence:6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No