Judge finds probable cause 35-year-old man is sexually violent

MADISON (WITI) — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has announced a judge presiding over an evidentiary hearing has found probable cause that 35-year-old James Peterson is a sexually violent person.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition under the state’s sexual predator law against Petersen on February 27, 2014.

Chapter 980 of the Wisconsin Statutes relates to the control, care, and treatment of sexually violent persons.

Under Wisconsin law, a person may be subject to a civil commitment when the person has been convicted of a sexually violent offense, has a mental disorder, and is dangerous to others because the mental disorder makes it likely he or she will commit further acts of sexual violence.

A civil commitment is defined in Wisconsin law as commitment to the custody and care of the Department of Health Services for control, care, and treatment until the person is no longer considered sexually violent.

According to the DOJ petition, Petersen was convicted of one count of first degree sexual assault of a child in Iron County on September 22, 2000. He was sentenced on that day to serve a 20-year term of initial confinement.

On March 15, 2005, Petersen’s sentence was modified to a 14-year term of initial confinement in the Wisconsin State Prison System.

Petersen was released from the Department of Corrections on March 9, 2014, and is now detained at a Department of Health Services facility to await further proceedings on the petition.

The state’s petition alleges that Petersen suffers from mental conditions that predispose him to engage in acts of sexual violence.

The petition also alleges that Petersen is dangerous as his mental disorders make it likely that he will engage in future acts of sexual violence.

A petition is only an allegation and a finding of probable cause only allows the state’s case to move forward.

Petersen is legally presumed not to be a sexually violent person unless and until the state proves him to be a sexually violent person at a trial.