Poplar native, former NFL player seeks dismissal of child sexual abuse charge

With Tom Burke facing a potentially lengthy prison sentence, his attorney has asked the court to toss the case prior to trial.

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A defense attorney said he will ask a judge to dismiss the child sexual abuse charge against a former football standout from Northwestern Wisconsin.

Tom Burke, 45, was arrested and charged in June with the sexual assault of a 7-year-old girl in St. Louis County. A former Northwestern High School star who went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers and Arizona Cardinals, Burke faces a potentially lengthy prison term if convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

But ahead of a Friday hearing in State District Court in Duluth, defense attorney Chris Stocke filed a motion requesting that the court schedule a hearing to assess the competency of the alleged victim.

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Thomas Allen Burke


"In this case, after the court has the opportunity to question the alleged victim and again review the entirety of the disclosures in this case, it will become evident that the alleged victim is not competent to testify," Stocke asserted. "The state's case against the defendant should be dismissed."

St. Louis County prosecutor Jon Holets responded briefly, telling Senior Judge Mark Starr: "I intend to contest whether a hearing is actually necessary."

With the defense still awaiting certain discovery, Starr continued Friday's pretrial hearing to Dec. 17. Attorneys indicated the case will need to be formally assigned to a judge before addressing Stocke's motion.

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.
Burke, who lives in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, has been free since posting a $100,000 bond immediately after his arraignment June 14.

A criminal complaint states that alleged assaults were first reported to authorities Feb. 21, when the 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.

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 pleaded not guilty in August.

PREVIOUSLY: 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.
A first-time offender convicted of the charge is expected to receive at least 12 years under state sentencing guidelines.


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 Cardinals before injuries helped end his career.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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