Northland First Responder Accused Twice of Sexual Assault

In Both Cases Prosecutors Declined to File Charges

DULUTH, Minn-

Duluth has received more than two million dollars of federal money in recent years to enhance the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases, but many of those cases won’t ever see a courtroom.

The Sexual Assault Kit initiative Grant came after a state-wide audit revealed Duluth had nearly 600 untested sexual assault DNA kits sitting on evidence shelves.

As part of a year-long investigation, FOX 21’s Nikki Davidson made public data requests to see why some cases are not charged by the prosecutor.

Of the 578 SAKI grant sexual assault reports police have investigated, they have referred 21 cases to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office for possible charges, the Prosecutor decided to charge only 13 of those cases. Only about 2 percent of the SAKI cases have made it to a courtroom since the grant began in 2016.

FOX 21 made a public data request, to get access to the SAKI cases the St. Louis County Prosecutor has decided not to charge. While reviewing the reports, we noticed one of the cases involves a man who has been accused of sexual assault multiple times, and also currently works as a first responder in the Northland.

FOX 21 is not naming the man accused, because he hasn’t been charged with a crime and we do not want to inadvertently reveal the identities of the women who accused him of assaulting them.

In 2014 a woman called Duluth police just an hour after she says that man assaulted her. She went to the hospital, and completed a sexual assault DNA kit. The woman who reported the assault said she was at home, when the Northland First Responder came over to visit her roommate. She hung out with them for a bit and then says she went to her room and “eventually she fell asleep,” and he “came into her room”  and she woke up to him groping and kissing her naked body without her consent.

The man admitted to police that he had entered her room naked without permission, according to reports he told investigators he entered the room because “I thought it would be fun” “If she said no, I was planning to pop right up, and go about my own business.”

The first responder said the two did engage in consensual sexual activity once he was in her room. The last recorded information of the 2015 investigation was an interview with that man. Duluth Police did not send the sexual assault DNA kit in for testing until a year later, in 2016 when a new police investigator picked up the case as part of the SAKI grant.

The investigator re-interviewed the people involved, and sent the report to prosecutor Nate Stumme for possible charges of first, second, third, and fourth degree criminal sexual conduct.

He makes a case in the report for charges to be pressed stating “the rationale to support the conditions of the charges of force or coercion is due to the bruise on the upper right arm of the victim.” That investigator also pointed out evidence contradicting a statement the man made, claiming he could tell the woman was awake and consented to him touching her when he entered her room by a light in her bedroom window.  The investigator wrote in the report that body camera video from the scene showed a black sheet hanging over the window.

Prosecutor Nate Stumme declined to charge the man with anything. He did not want to do an on-camera interview, and said the first responder’s employment status did not play a factor in his decision and sent this statement via email:

“The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office will file charges only when the available evidence supports a reasonable likelihood of success at trial. The burden of proof at trial is on the state and, in the case of a jury trial, requires juror unanimity and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Our charging standard exceeds probable cause, the minimum requirement to support a criminal charge.  We feel our charging policy is in the interest of justice.  Charging decisions necessarily rely upon a prosecutor’s good judgment, legal knowledge, and trial experience.  It is a heavy responsibility,  carried out with the utmost care by dedicated public servants.”

A little more than six months after the first accusation, the same first responder was accused again in a different county, this time by a minor.

She told sheriff deputies that while the man was in her home, visiting someone else, and according to the report , “I was sleeping. He woke me up and came into my room. I remember freaking out cuz I didn’t know who it was.”

She told investigators the man than insisted they have sex, she said she asked him to leave, and he didn’t. She told deputies she eventually complied because “He was not going to leave until I did it.”

The man admitted to investigators, he did have sexual relations with the 16-year-old, but said it was all consensual.

According to transcripts from the Sheriff’s office of his interview with a deputy he said “I mean it’s not acceptable, not the standard of person I should be especially for my job.”

A check of social media shows just a few months later, the first responder was still on the job posing in a official capacity in a picture posted on facebook on the department’s page, in a school with young children.

We weren’t able to get in touch with the county prosecutor who reviewed the evidence about why this case wasn’t charged. None of the law enforcement agencies involved in these cases wanted to comment on this story.

PAVSA in Duluth is currently working with Duluth police to improve sexual assault investigations and prosecutions.

They have a helpline set up for survivors; click here for more information.

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