Ex-Packer Chmura To Get Own Trial

Friday, September 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WAUKESHA, Wis.--Mark Chmura and his neighbor will be tried separately because of the attention surrounding the former Packers' star, who is accused of forcing his baby sitter to have sex with him.

The neighbor, Robert Gessert, would be "swept up in the undercurrent" of the trial's coverage, the judge ruled Friday.

"Clearly, there is an unequal distribution of public attention," Judge Mark Gempeler said.

Chmura's lawyer, Gerald Boyle, said the publicity has been more intense than the coverage surrounding the case involving Milwaukee serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, whom he represented.

The charges stem from a party held at Gessert's home in the early morning hours of April 9 after the Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School prom.

Chmura faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charge and up to 30 years if convicted of enticement. Both counts carry a maximum $10,000 fine.

Gessert could get up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The 31-year-old Chmura was charged with child enticement and sexual assault after his children's 17-year-old baby sitter said he had sex with her without her consent on a bathroom floor during the party. He has pleaded innocent to both counts.

An 18-year-old woman said Gessert fondled her in a hot tub at the party. He has pleaded innocent to sexual assault.

"There's no possible way these two men can get a fair trial if they are tried together," Chmura lawyer Gerald Boyle said.

Chmura and Gessert live less than a mile from each other. They were arrested the day after the party. Both are free on $5,000 bail.

The 17-year-old girl, who cared for Chmura's two young sons, said she and the 18-year-old played drinking games with Chmura and Gessert for an hour before the alleged assaults.

The Packers released Chmura, once one of the NFL's premier tight ends, in June. He helped Green Bay to Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. He missed all but the first two games of last season with a neck injury.

Chmura shook hands with Gessert at Friday's hearing. Chmura's wife, Lynda, sat behind the defense table.

Gessert's lawyer, Martin Kohler, was pleased at the judge's ruling.

"We didn't want to be overshadowed," Kohler said. "That was the whole point of our motion."

Boyle has filed a request for a change of venue, and the judge plans to rule on that request Oct. 26. Kohler said he hasn't decided whether to ask that Gessert's trial be moved.

District Attorney Paul Bucher has not decided whether to oppose moving Chmura's trial. He also said dividing the cases could produce a burden for his office.

"We may have to bring the same witnesses on twice," he said. "We'll do it twice. We'll do it twice as good."