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New England sex crime suspect withdraws guilty plea

Russell Pearson

In a turn of events Tuesday, Russell Pearson of New England withdrew his plea at a Hettinger County sentencing hearing for charges of sexual contact with a minor at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.

Pearson, born in 1958, is charged with three felony counts of gross sexual imposition of a minor younger than 15, according to court documents.

With the withdrawal of the plea and the rejection of the plea agreement, a third jury trial will be scheduled, Judge Zane Anderson said.

Pearson had two jury trials canceled before.

"It's almost like the victims are being victimized all over again," Hettinger County State's Attorney James Gion said after Pearson's attorney, Kevin McCabe, announced that Pearson would like to withdraw his plea.

McCabe stated a North Dakota law that allows the withdrawal of a plea before the court accepts a sentence.

The agreement reached between the two parties included 10 years prison with all but time served suspended, no fines except a court fee of $1,025, 10 years supervised probation, registration as a sex offender, and he could have no contact with the victim, the victim's mother or the victim's extended family and must stay 1,000 yards away from all parties listed in exchange for a guilty plea of one count of a lower felony gross sexual imposition charge.

Anderson was concerned with Pearson's employment and living situation as he would not be able to live in New England due to the restraining order against him.

Gion said a statement from the victim's mother would clarify the reasoning for the fairly light sentence.

She did not testify.

Anderson was to recommend five years prison with two years suspended and time served, about 10 months, with five years of supervised probation. Under that scenario Pearson would have to take sex offender classes while locked up.

With the withdrawal of the plea and therefore the plea agreement, Person will face the full charges originally brought against him at a jury trial at a to-be-determined date.

Pearson was charged with the three counts of sexual contact with a male minor younger than 15, according to his criminal complaint dated Oct. 5.

He faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for each count.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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