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Poplar native, former NFL player pleads not guilty to child sexual abuse

Tom Burke did, however, waive his right to challenge a number of pretrial issues.

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A not-guilty plea was entered as a Northwestern Wisconsin football legend appeared in court Friday on charges of sexually abusing a child.

Tom Burke, 44, formally waived his right to challenge the sufficiency of probable cause or raise any constitutional issues as he made the brief appearance before Judge Eric Hylden at a virtual session of State District Court in Duluth.

The move should allow the case to more quickly move toward a resolution, either through plea agreement or trial, without substantial litigation. Defense attorney Chris Stocke requested that the parties proceed to a settlement conference, which Hylden scheduled for Sept. 3.

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Thomas Allen Burke


Burke, a former Northwestern High School star who went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers and the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, has been free since posting a $100,000 bond immediately after his arraignment June 14. He has been living in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

A criminal complaint states that alleged assaults were first reported to authorities Feb. 21, when the 7-year-old victim disclosed to her mother "something that's been a secret." The victim, who was known to Burke, reportedly indicated that Burke had been performing oral sex on her.

PREVIOUSLY: Former NFL player from Poplar accused of sexually assaulting child Tom Burke, a 2020 inductee of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, faces a potentially lengthy prison term if convicted of the Duluth charge.
A forensic interview of the victim was conducted at First Witness Child Advocacy Center the following day. Authorities said the girl began to tear up and indicated she did not like to talk about it before going on to give several details of the alleged incidents. The complaint states that she described as many of five incidents involving oral sex or touching of her genital area.

Burke, when interviewed, denied any sexual acts toward the victim and explained that he thought he was being "railroaded," the complaint states.

He was charged by warrant June 8 with first-degree criminal sexual conduct — a count that carries a guideline range of approximately 12-14 years for a first-time offender.

Burke, who was born in Proctor and raised in Poplar, was inducted last year into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. The defensive end had a Big Ten-record 22 sacks in 1998 and went on to win that season's Rose Bowl with the Badgers. He was picked in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft, spending four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before injuries helped end his career.

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