Court grants new trial for Eau Claire man in sex assault case

Man argued he wasn't allowed to call two witnesses

A state appeals court has granted a new trial for an Eau Claire man accused of sexually assaulting a young girl.

A jury convicted Paul Thornton in 2010 of attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child.

Thornton, now 32, argued on appeal he wasn’t allowed to call two witnesses who would have vouched for his truthfulness.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Thornton should have been permitted to call the witnesses. The court said the case was a credibility contest between Thornton and the victim and prosecutors failed to prove the jury would have found Thornton guilty if the witnesses had been allowed to testify.

A spokeswoman for the state Justice Department, which handles felony appeals for local prosecutors, said the agency will evaluate the ruling and decide whether to ask the state Supreme Court to take the case.