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Plea expected in Dickinson sexual assault case

Nick Jay Webster

A Dickinson man accused of sexually assaulting an elderly woman earlier this year will enter a conditional plea Thursday to three felony charges after a judge denied his motion to suppress statements made due to inadequate Miranda warnings of self-incrimination.

Nick Jay Webster, 24, faced three felony charges in the March 10 incident: Class A felony gross sexual imposition, Class B burglary and Class C felony interference with a telephone during emergency call. The charges were filed after he allegedly entered an 83-year-old woman's home and sexually assaulted her before fleeing on foot, according to the criminal complaint.

He also allegedly grabbed the telephone from the victim when she attempted to call police. His trial was scheduled to begin today.

With a conditional plea, the defendant maintains the right to appeal a number of constitutional or evidentiary issues.

After testimony during Tuesday's hearing in Southwest District Court from Dickinson Police Department Sgt. Kylan Klauzer and Investigator Travis Leintz and reviewing Webster's taped interrogations with both officers, Judge H. Patrick Weir concluded that Webster had received "sufficient Miranda warnings and he appeared to understand his rights."

He added that there is also signage in the interrogation room warning suspects that all conversations are recorded, and it should have been evident that anything Webster said to his brother while alone in an interrogation room could be used against him.

"Sgt. Klauzer said, in essence, that (Webster) did not have to talk, even if he did not give the word-for-word Miranda," Weir said.

Webster's attorney, Carey Ann Goetz, had argued that Webster also was not rightly informed that he had the right to a court-appointed attorney if he could not afford one.

"He applied two times for a court-appointed attorney after the interrogation, so it shows he wanted an attorney," she said in her closing statement. "Perhaps he would not have given a statement if he had consulted an attorney."

But Weir said he felt Webster was aware that he had the right to counsel based on conversations with officers.

The tapes of Webster's interrogation by both officers and the conversation with his brother were not played in court.

In other court news

- Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning said during a pretrial conference that he thinks the state and Ashley Holmes, attorney for Michael Lewis Pope, who is charged with one count of Class A felony criminal attempt-murder, can reach a resolution in Pope's case by Friday and will not need to go to trial next month.

Weir gave the state and the defense until Friday at noon to reach a plea agreement.

Pope allegedly shot his victim in the chest with a 9 mm caliber handgun on Dec. 16, according to the criminal complaint.

- The Class C felony charge of contact by bodily fluids against Kelly Sturgis, Rathum, Idaho, will be amended to a Class A misdemeanor.

Sturgis, born 1961, allegedly spit in the face of a Dickinson Police officer who was dealing with him after his arrest for actual physical control, or having the means to operate a vehicle while intoxicated, in June.

Sturgis was not present in court because he is receiving treatment in Idaho, said his attorney, Kevin McCabe, but Stark County Assistant State's Attorney James Hope said he would submit in writing the state's motion to the amended the charge within two weeks.