Anthony Popke, who was convicted of the 2005 killing of Nicolas Resch, will continue to serve his 20-year prison sentence.
Popke was in Waupaca County Circuit Court Thursday, April 14, for resentencing as a result of an appellate court decision that overturned his original sentence.
On March 25, 2005, Popke spent most of the day drinking. Some time before 3 a.m. March 26, Popke went to the Pantry Restaurant in New London with his girlfriend Sarah Torkelson. Resch was also at the Pantry Restaurant that night.
According to court records, Popke was angry at Resch because Torkelson, who was pregnant at the time, had complained that Resch had been “hitting on her” at work.
Also at the restaurant were Jared Polley and Jennifer Suprise. Popke allegedly told Polley “to stay out of it when he started swinging” because “he goes nuts,” according to the criminal complaint.
At a preliminary hearing on May 16, 2005, Suprise testified that she saw Resch leave the restaurant shortly after 3 a.m., then saw Popke follow a few minutes later.
In the parking lot, Popke confronted Resch and punched him numerous times in the face. There were no witnesses to the encounter.
As Surprise left the restaurant, she saw Resch lying on the ground. She asked Popke what had happened and he responded, “Don’t worry about him. He’s just sleeping.”
Popke then went back into the restaurant, had Torkelson pay the bill, then left.
Suprise went over to check on Resch. She did not recognize him at first because he was so severely injured. Resch had blood pouring from his nose and mouth, and was making a gurgling sound. Suprise went inside the restaurant to get help. Resch was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
Resch died on April 4, 2005. He was 27 years old at the time.
Dr. Michael Stier, who performed the autopsy, testified at the preliminary hearing that Resch suffered “a multitude of blunt trauma injuries to the head and neck” and that his brain was severely swollen.
Polley testified that he saw Popke as he was getting into his truck to leave the restaurant. He said Popke made a gesture with his hand across his throat and mouthed, “You didn’t see me.”
After the incident, Popke went to his mother’s house, changed his clothes and asked his stepfather to hide the clothes he had been wearing. He then turned himself in to the New London police.
On May 22, 2006, Popke entered a plea of no contest to first-degree reckless homicide. As part of the plea agreement, the district attorney’s office agreed to ask for no more than 18 years in prison.
On June 30, 2006, Judge John Hoffmann sentenced Popke to 20 years in state prison and 15 years of extended supervision.
After sentencing, Popke’s attorney filed a motion to withdraw his plea of no contest on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence presented at the preliminary hearing, that he did not understand the elements of the crime with which he was charged and that the prosecution had breached the plea agreement.
In June 2009, Judge Hoffmann denied Popke’s motion to withdraw his plea. Popke then filed an appeal seeking to overturn Hoffmann’s decision.
In April 2010, the District IV Court of Appeals dismissed Popke’s motion to withdraw his plea, noting that sufficient evidence had been provided at the preliminary hearing to establish that Popke acted with utter disregard for human life and that the court had properly explained the crime to Popke.
However, the appeals court ruled that Popke had to be resentenced by a different judge because the prosecution had breached its plea agreement.
Among the dozens of letters that were sent to the court regarding Popke’s case, one was from New London Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson. He asked that Popke be sentenced to 20 years in prison, half the maximum allowed for the crime.
The appellate court found that the letter was a violation of the prosecution’s plea agreement since the police chief is considered part of the prosecution. The case was remanded to the circuit court and another judge was assigned to sentence Popke.
Outagamie Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis was assigned to preside over Popke’s sentencing. He sentenced Popke to 20 years in prison, less the 1,755 days already served, and ordered that he spend 20 years, rather than 15 years on extended supervision.
McGinnis also ordered that as conditions of his extended supervision, Popke pay $81,120 in restitution to Resch’s family and not attempt to discharge the civil judgment that was brought against him. Popke must also maintain full-time employment and not consume alcohol while on extended supervision.