WASHBURN COUNTY -- A criminal complaint has been filed against an 18-year-old-male from Shell Lake, WI, charging him with repeated sexual assault of a child.

In January 2022, the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch received a report alleging that an 18-year-old-male was having sex with a juvenile (specific age and gender of the juvenile not included in this post to aid in protecting confidentiality) at a residence in Spooner, WI.

Washburn County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the residence and spoke with the male, identified as Nicholas Ernst, of Shell Lake, WI. When Deputies asked Ernst what was going on, Ernst allegedly admitted to being at the residence with the juvenile but denied any sexual activity, stating that they were just ‘hanging out and talking and watching some TV’.

During the course of the investigation into the allegations, Deputies were provided with text message conversations that indicated that Ernst had been having sexual interactions with the juvenile.

Ernst was interviewed again on a later date, and the criminal complaint states that he described being in a ‘real relationship’ with the juvenile, stating that it was not just a sexual relationship. Ernst allegedly admitted to subjecting the juvenile to sexual activity on the date that law enforcement responded to the call for assistance, as well as on multiple prior occasions.

The criminal complaint also states that Ernst said he was intoxicated on more than one occasion when he engaged in sexual activity with the juvenile. Ernst also stated that the relationship had been off and on for a while and had started before he was 18 years old.

On January 10, 2022, Ernst appeared in Washburn County Circuit Court for a bail bond hearing. The District Attorney requested that the Court order a cash bond between $2,500 and $5,000. The Court ordered a cash bond component of $2,500 on a $10,000 signature bond. Conditions of bond prohibit Ernst from having any unsupervised contact with any minor females or possessing any electronics that allow access to the internet. Bond conditions also prohibit any controlled substances unless legally prescribed and Ernst is not to possess or consume alcohol.

A criminal complaint was filed on January 27, 2022, charging Ernst with Class C Felony Repeated Sexual Assualt of a Child. If convicted as charged, Ernst faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years imprisonment.

Online circuit court records show that Ernst is scheduled to have an initial appearance on February 14, 2022, regarding the charges filed against him.

Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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