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Charges: WI prosecutor secretly recorded sexual encounters with 2 women

Prosecutors allege he discussed with the victims a possibility of leniency in their cases.

The assistant district attorney in Burnett County, Wisconsin, is accused of secretly filming his sexual encounters with two women who had cases or pending cases with his office. 

Daniel Steffen, 50 of Osceola, Wisconsin, was charged Feb. 5 in Polk County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court with three felonies of capturing depictions of nudity in connection with the 2018 incidents, according to court records.

Steffen's first court appearance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 15, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a news release. If convicted, each felony carries a maximum sentence of 3.5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

According to the criminal complaint, in early 2020, a witness told the DOJ a woman she knew talked about having sex with Steffen in exchange for leniency on her criminal cases in Burnett County, where Steffen is an assistant district attorney. 

The woman, identified as Victim 1, was facing charges for violating a restraining order. Initially, she said she didn't have a relationship with Steffen, but a few months later admitted they met at a pretrial conference for her case and he gave her his personal cellphone number and they began texting, charges say. 

Victim 1 told investigators she had sex with him multiple times at his home, her home, and his office during working hours, the complaint states.

Investigators obtained a search warrant in October 2020 and found an iPad with three intimate videos on it taken in Steffen's bedroom, the complaint says. 

In the first video of Victim 1, dated Aug. 8, 2018, Steffen asks Victim 1 several times, "Who's in charge?" Later in the video, while the two are still having sex, he looked at the camera, stuck his tongue out and winked several times, charges say.

A second video showing Victim 1 is dated Sept. 11, 2018, the complaint says.

Victim 1 told investigators she did not know she was being recorded in either video and they were filmed without her consent, charges say.

A third video, dated Feb. 11, 2018, featured a different woman, identified in the criminal complaint as Victim 2. During the video, they discuss how she could avoid criminal charges for hitting a mailbox, charges say.

Investigators spoke with Victim 2 on Nov. 12, 2020, who said she was introduced to Steffen through a mutual acquaintance and they began a relationship of mostly "hookups" in 2018, the complaint states. Victim 2 said the video, which she did not consent to, was likely from the first time they had sex. 

The criminal complaint does not say whether Victim 2 was ever charged by the Burnett District Attorney's Office. 

According to the Burnett District Attorney's Office, Steffen is the only assistant district attorney in the county. 

Steffen was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar in 1998 after graduating from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. His license status is in "good standing," as of Feb. 8, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports in 2015, when Steffen was the Polk County district attorney, he was arrested for drunken driving in Fond du Lac County, but the case didn't result in a conviction.

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