Presumed Guilty

Luciano Silveira and Michele Wioskowski were convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old girl. But there's a lot the jury never heard.

At least at the outset, Dec. 15, 1996, was a cozy, aimless Sunday night, loosely braided with chores, TV and idle talk. Michele Wioskowski, a 24-year-old teacher at a Catholic high school in West County, had been out to eat with her 28-year-old boyfriend, Luciano Silveira, and his family. But a chronic kidney infection was flaring up (she'd been to the St. Luke's emergency-care center nine days earlier), and she says she felt so lousy that she left her car at Silveira's and asked him to drive her home.

Wioskowski taught Spanish, but she also coached the cheerleaders (extracurricular penance for a first-year teacher). That fall, she'd befriended a 16-year-old cheerleader we'll call Jenny, who lived alone with her dad and had a rocky emotional history. That Sunday, Jenny's father, a night watchman, was working until dawn, and she wasn't wild about sitting home with only a pile of laundry for company.

Jenny says Wioskowski called and invited her over to spend the night, suggesting that they'd order pizza and implying that they'd skip school the next day and go shopping.

Wioskowski says she'd already eaten dinner and called in sick for the next day, and was planning on staying home in bed. She says Jenny had called earlier and arranged to spend the night at the Wioskowskis (Michele lived with her parents, but they were often out of town, and the house was spacious). Wioskowski wasn't surprised; Jenny had done this several times before when her dad was working, and she was always welcome.

In any event, Jenny came over with her laundry. Wioskowski and Silveira went downstairs for some privacy, and Jenny chatted with Alex -- a foreign-exchange student who was staying with the Wioskowskis -- and his friend Maureen. Wioskowski put her robe on. Then, she says, she shooed Silveira home, checked to see if Jenny needed soap, shampoo or towel, and went to bed. But before she had time to fall asleep, she heard an urgent knock on her door. Jenny came in all upset, says Wioskowski, and proceeded to pour out her troubles for hours, starting with jealousy of Alex and Maureen (Jenny had dated Alex that fall) and moving to other girls at her school, her dead mother, an uncle who'd sexually abused her. The next morning, eyes swollen and emotions still churning, Jenny begged to stay home from school, so Wioskowski called her in sick and let her go back to bed.

Jenny's version is a bit more torrid. (She, like Wioskowski, declined to be interviewed; what follows is drawn directly from their court testimony and depositions, the police report and the Division of Family Services reports.) Jenny says that, as soon as Maureen left and Alex went to his bedroom, Wioskowski and Silveira headed for the hot tub. On the way, Jenny says Wioskowski sought her out, saying, "'You know I love you.' And she has me closer to her. I said, 'Yeah, I know you love me, Michele.' And she said, 'You know I would do anything for you.' I said, 'Well, I'd do anything for you too.' And she said, 'Well, I'm going to use that to my advantage.'"

According to Jenny, Wioskowski directed her to "come downstairs in a few minutes and bring two beers with you." Jenny says she went out to the hot tub, set the beers on the ledge, and, at their invitation, took off all her clothes and climbed into the hot tub with Wioskowski and Silveira. "She started kissing me.... On my mouth. On my breasts....Then she kind of passed me -- pushed me towards Luciano. And he said, 'I think she's shy.' And he started to touch me."

Jenny says Silveira put his fingers inside her vagina, then told Wioskowski, "Hold your baby," at which prompt Wioskowski "lifted my body halfway up out of the water and kissed me on my genital area." Then Silveira "took my hand and showed it to his penis." After more fondling, Jenny says Wioskowski left to get herself and Jenny glasses of wine. Jenny was now alone with Silveira in the hot tub, but according to Jenny's account, the action stopped cold: "I grabbed my cigarettes that were by the hot tub and I started to smoke."

When Wioskowski returned, she handed Jenny a glass of wine, and the action resumed instantly. Jenny says Silveira told her to put down the wine, and she and Wioskowski took turns trying something he called scuba diving, giving him oral sex underwater. After more fondling, Jenny says they went inside to find a bedroom. She says she stopped to use the restroom, and then Wioskowski handed her a robe. "She laid -- told me to lay down on her bed. And she put the robe on me like a blanket."

Jenny says that Wioskowski "put herself like at the head of the bed with her legs spread open and told me to have oral sex with her, and Luciano got behind me and had sex with me." Asked to describe Wioskowski's position more precisely, Jenny said it was "in a crawl kind of position. She's like halfway seated and halfway not.... She's on her back." Jenny says she was on her stomach, lying "kind of diagonally" on the bed, and Silveira was "behind me, kind of standing, kind of kneeling down like. And then he gets on the bed.... He puts his penis into my vagina and continued to have sex with me."

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