Dickinson man could get life in prison for sexual assault felony
A Dickinson man is facing the possibility of a life sentence after he entered a conditional guilty plea Thursday to charges that he forcibly entered an 83-year-old Dickinson woman's home and sexually assaulted her earlier this year.
At the change of plea hearing at the Stark County Courthouse, Judge H. Patrick Weir ordered that Nick Jay Webster, 24, undergo a mental health assessment and that a pre-sentencing investigation be conducted before he is sentenced.
Webster is charged with one count of Class AA felony gross sexual imposition, one count of Class B felony burglary and one count of Class C felony interference with a telephone during an emergency call in the March 10 incident, according to the criminal complaint.
Stark County Assistant State's Attorney Jim Hope said there is no plea agreement between the state and the defense.
Hope also noted that the Class A felony gross sexual imposition charge was amended last month to a Class AA felony, which is the most serious classification of felonies in North Dakota and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
The minimum penalty for a Class AA conviction is 20 years imprisonment.
Courts may deviate from the minimum mandatory sentence under certain circumstances, but a defendant convicted of a Class AA felony cannot be sentenced to less than five years imprisonment, according to North Dakota Century Code.
Webster changed his plea after the denial of a motion to suppress statements made due to inadequate Miranda warnings of self-incrimination Tuesday at an evidentiary hearing in Dickinson.
Webster's attorney, Carey Ann Goetz, also argued that Webster was not rightly informed of his right to a court-appointed attorney if he could not afford one or properly read his Miranda rights.
But Weir denied the motion, saying he felt Webster had received "sufficient Miranda warnings and he appeared to understand his rights."
With his conditional plea, Webster maintains the right to appeal Tuesday's decision to an appellate court and possibly withdraw his plea.
Sgt. Kylan Klauzer, Dickinson Police Department's primary investigator for the case, was called to the stand Thursday to give a factual basis for Webster's plea.
Klauzer said officers determined at the scene that there had been forced entry into the victim's home when a broken window in the garage was discovered.
Webster was taken into custody after officers found him looking out of a window at the apartment building where he lived, which was north of the victim's home, Klauzer said.
"The officers saw him and decided it was something they should look into," he said.
Klauzer said a shoe print found at the scene also matched Webster's shoes and a scratch near his hairline was consistent with how the victim said she retaliated against her attacker.
"She said she pulled his hair and scratched his face," Klauzer said, adding that the victim said the perpetrator tried to take the phone out of her hand when she attempted to call for help during the assault.