Polish man takes Alford plea; felony charges dismissed

Staff photo by Fritz Busch

Wojciech M. Stefanczyk, 30, of Poland, left, makes an Alford plea in a felony criminal sexual conduct case in Brown County District Court Thursday. To his right are attorney Greg Handevidt, a public defender from Mankato, and, partially concealed, other legal staff.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Wojciech M. Stefanczyk, 30, of Poland, left, makes an Alford plea in a felony criminal sexual conduct case in Brown County District Court Thursday. To his right are attorney Greg Handevidt, a public defender from Mankato, and, partially concealed, other legal staff.

NEW ULM — In what was described as an extremely emotional and difficult case by everyone who spoke at a plea and sentencing hearing Thursday, a 30-year-old Polish man agreed to make an Alford plea in a felony criminal sexual conduct case in Brown County District Court.

According to the Alford plea, Wojciech M. Stefanczyk did not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence, but admits the evidence the prosecution has would likely persuade a judge or jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stefanczyk was convicted of gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Felony charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed.

Stefanczyk was sentenced to 179 days in the Brown County Jail, with 175 days stayed for two years and credited for four days served. He was fined $160. Conditions include giving a DNA sample when directed; registering as a predatory offender, complying with requirements to be free to return to his home country, submitting to HIV testing and signing a release so information can be sent to a healthcare provider of the victim’s choice.

The victim called Stefanczyk’s sentence “a slap on the wrist instead of prison” in a statement she read in court.

“A number of women talked to me about this who were involved in similar situations,” the victim said. “I will not be silenced. I came forward, after all I went through. One in six people will be sexually assaulted in their life. It happens every 90 seconds. When we don’t believe rape victims, we create more of them.”

The victim said she is a better and stronger person now.

“God saw everything you did and every lie you told. You are a sex offender. You know what you did and now you get to live with it,” she said.

A relative of the victim read a statement that told Stefanczyk he was sick and to get help so that type of behavior can be removed from the court room.

“There’s no doubt these are the toughest cases we do. We do the best we can do,” said Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson.

Stefanczyk’s attorney, public defender Greg Handevidt of Mankato, said only Stefanczyk, the victim and the Almighty know what happened April 27.

“I’ve been practicing law 17 years. This is the most emotional case I’ve ever been in,” Handevidt said. “I feel the agreement we reached is an agreement everyone can live with.”

Handevidt said Stefanczyk was facing 12 years in prison in a foreign country in the case.

“He came to New Ulm for a funeral (last April) and planned to be here for about a week and this incident occurred,” Handevidt said.

Judge Robert Docherty said he understood why the victim was mad at him.

“This is a case dictated by the law,” Docherty said.

“I understand,” the victim said.

According to court documents, the victim said she was working as a bartender in New Ulm when two of her high school friends and their friend from Poland, identified as Stefanczyk, came into the bar. He was a foreign exchange student who graduated from New Ulm Cathedral in 2006. A man in the New Ulm family who Stefanczyk stayed with while a student here died and he returned to attend his funeral and show his respects to the family.

The victim said she met the three others later at the bar. She told police she had three alcoholic drinks and a glass of ice water at the bar, then drove them to a mutual friend’s residence.

The victim said she mixed drinks for everyone at the residence and they drank and socialized until about 3 a.m. before one of them went to sleep and another person walked home.

The victim told police she remembered very little after finishing her drink and speculated that Stefanczyk placed some type of “date rape” drug into her drink. She said she remembered Stefanczyk taking her hand and leading her to a bedroom, then asking her if she was “on the pill.”

Not remembering any sexual intercourse or sex acts, the victim later found her pants torn in the crotch and pain and soreness.

Arriving home, the victim told police she was crying and hysterical as she woke up her mother, who took her to New Ulm Medical Center where a sexual assault examination was done. The victim then decided to report the incident to law enforcement.

Police received information on where Stefanczyk was and later stopped a vehicle he was reported to be riding in, arrested him and transported him to the Law Enforcement Center without incident.

Stefanczyk told police he had sexual intercourse with the victim and that the acts were from two consenting adults. Where his story and the victim’s differed is when the two were left alone. Stefanczyk denied placing any type of drug or date rape style drunk into the victim’s drink. Stefanczyk was booked into the Brown County Jail.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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