Former Green Bay Packers star Mark Chmura and his neighbor will be tried separately on sexual assault charges stemming from a party at the neighbor's home last spring.
Chmura has pleaded innocent to charges of child enticement and third-degree sexual assault after his children's 17-year-old baby sitter accused him of having sex with her without her consent at a post-prom party April 9.
His neighbor, Robert Gessert, also has pleaded innocent to charges of fondling an 18-year-old woman in a hot tub.
Judge Mark Gempeler said Friday in deciding to separate the trials that Gessert would be "swept in the undercurrent" of media attention in the two cases.
"Clearly, there is an unequal distribution of public attention and media attention as to defendant Chmura and defendant Gessert," Gempeler said.
Chmura's attorney, Gerald Boyle, requested that the cases be split.
"There's no possible way these two men can get a fair trial if they are tried together," Boyle said Friday.
Chmura and Gessert, who live less than a mile from each other in a Hartland subdivision, were arrested the day after the party, held in the early morning hours of April 9 after the Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School prom.
The 17-year-old girl, who had cared for Chmura's two young children, said before the assault she, the 18-year-old woman, Chmura and Gessert played drinking games for an hour.
Chmura faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charge and up to 30 years if convicted on the enticement charge. Both counts each also carry a maximum $10,000 fine.
Chmura joined the Packers in 1992 and became one of the NFL's best tight ends. He became a starter in 1995 and made the Pro Bowl in 1995, 1997 and 1998. However, he missed all but the first two games of last season with a neck injury, and the Packers released him June 5.
Gessert, 43, could get up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Both men are free on $5,000 bond.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2000 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.