By Bruce Vielmetti
19-year-old, like his grandfather, jailed over romance with underage girlfriend
Christian Laes, 19, is in jail today because he wouldn't follow a judge's order to stay away from his younger girlfriend, just like his grandfather did in 1970.
Dean Teska made headlines in Milwaukee when, on probation for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he married his girlfriend when she turned 18. He was 20. The union withstood Teska's brief stay in jail, produced four children and lasted until Teska's death in 1982.
But 2011 legal and moral realities could dictate a harsher outcome for Laes and his romance.
Laes, of Sturgeon Bay, has been jailed in Door County since Sept. 13, a day after he got together with his girlfriend, Crystal Muraski, 17. He wasn't supposed to communicate with her at all because they had touched each other sexually early last year, when she was 15 and he was 18.
That was in March 2010. She told some friends, who told a teacher, who told police, who told prosecutors. They charged Laes with sexual assault of a child that summer.
The state offered a deferred prosecution agreement on the felony. Laes pleaded no contest in December to third- and fourth-degree sexual assault, both misdemeanors, was found guilty and was sentenced to probation with a list of conditions, including get counseling, write an essay on appropriate sexual behavior, stay in school and get a job. If he could meet them all over a three-year period, his felony case would be dismissed.
The toughest condition was no contact with Muraski - no visits, phone calls, Facebook messages, letters, emails, texts or notes through go-betweens.
In September, they met up anyway. The next day, he landed in jail.
His probation officer has moved to revoke his probation. The deferred prosecution deal could get pulled, and Laes could be sentenced to three years in prison - and a lifetime on Wisconsin's sex offender registry.
Muraski and Laes' mother, Dena Teska, think that's wrong.
"Don't we have a Romeo law or something here?" Teska asked.
Wisconsin, like some other states, does allow some sex offenders to petition for removal from the registry in certain circumstances where the contact was consensual among people within a certain age range.
Teska noted the irony that her own father had been jailed over his romance with a minor. Dean Teska had been involved in long-running feud with his girlfriend's family, according Milwaukee Journal coverage from 1970. He wound up convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after Pamela Pride's father learned she had visited Teska's apartment (when his roommate also was present).
Teska was ordered not to see Pamela, but instead married her the day she turned 18. He was later jailed for it. A judge eventually let Teska out in time for a wedding reception at his mother's house.
Dena Teska said she met her husband when she was a high school freshman and he was a senior. They got married when she was 19 and had their son Christian, but are now divorced.
Laes was a senior, Muraski a freshman, at Sturgeon Bay High School when they started dating in the fall of 2009. In March 2010, he touched her sexually and she touched him sexually, and by the end of the month both had been interviewed by police and admitted the touching happened two or three times.
"I knew it was illegal for me to have sexual intercourse with (Muraski) but I did not know it was illegal to touch each other in a sexual manner," Laes said in a written statement to a Door County sheriff's deputy.
Muraski, now a junior, said she wasn't pressured by Laes, and that she thinks jealousy among her "supposed friends" led them to go to a school resource officer. Muraski did tell a detective that at first she said no to the touching, but agreed to it after Laes teased her for being chicken.
"The whole thing in the beginning was my friends suspected we were doing stuff that we weren't," Muraski said. "I have a feeling they all liked Christian at the time, but he didn't choose them."
Earlier that March, Laes had pleaded no contest to a 2009 misdemeanor drug possession charge, found guilty and sentenced to probation. His mother says his probation agent jailed him briefly after hearing about the investigation, even before he was charged with the sex crime in July.
Now, Muraski said, Laes' probation agent, Kim Bridenhagen, comes to her school nearly every week, talking to Laes' friends and to her. Muraski said people around school now pretty much all blame her for Laes being in jail.
"She's telling me she thinks I'm depressed and she's trying to help me, but she's also trying to get more information about Christian," Muraski said. She said she has told Bridenhagen she doesn't want to see her anymore.
Bridenhagen declined to discuss the case with a reporter, citing Department of Corrections policy. A Sturgeon Bay police officer involved in the case did not return a message.
Teska said her son has a probation revocation hearing Tuesday.
She said at this point Laes hopes his probation is revoked and he is sentenced to serve a year in jail, with the other conditions dropped. That way, he could at least see Crystal on visiting days. Both she and Muraski have sent letters to the judge.
"But we're not sure" how it will turn out, Teska said. "We're all scared."
Muraski said it's all adding to the stress she already feels about going in for some heart surgery the day after Laes' hearing. She said it's part of ongoing treatment for a congenital heart defect.
She said whatever comes for Laes, she'll wait for him because he and Teska "are like family to me now."