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Russell Pearson

Pleas entered in Hettinger County molestation cases

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The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

MOTT -- Two Hettinger County men facing unrelated criminal charges for molesting children pleaded not guilty Thursday during their preliminary hearings at the Hettinger County Courthouse.

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Russell Pearson, 52, is charged with three counts of gross sexual imposition, all Class AA felonies.

Cody Buffalo, 33, is charged with two counts of gross sexual imposition, both Class AA felonies.

Judge Zane Anderson lowered Pearson's bond to $50,000 cash or surety from a $300,000 bond set by the court in October.

"I don't think he's a threat to the community," said Kevin McCabe, Pearson's attorney. "This doesn't seem like this is a pattern or

anything."

Hettinger County State's Attorney Jim Gion said he didn't object to lowering the bond, as long as the defendant did not contact the alleged victim, a 12-year-old boy, or the alleged victim's family.

Hettinger County Sheriff Deputy Josh Monson testified that the boy said Pearson engaged in three different sexual acts with him at Pearson's home in New England.

"From what (the boy) had stated, there were breaks in between each act," Monson said. "It was not one continuous act."

The alleged victim also referred to Pearson as "a pretty good friend," Monson said.

McCabe asked Anderson to dismiss the charges against Pearson, but Anderson refused and said enough evidence was presented to find probable cause to move the case forward.

In an unrelated case, Buffalo is accused of having sexual contact with an 8-year-old girl on multiple occasions.

"She did not know how many times it occurred," said Tara Schaefer, a Hettinger County social worker. "She had stated that the last time was just before school started."

A relative of Buffalo's, whom the victim called "grandma," called Hettinger County Social Services, Schaefer said. The relative was concerned Buffalo engaged in "inappropriate touching," at a home near New England, she added.

Thomas Murtha, Buffalo's attorney, questioned whether enough evidence was presented at the hearing.

"Right now this is about as low as it can get," he said.

However, Anderson said enough evidence was presented to find probable cause to move the case forward.

Buffalo was released on 10 percent of a $5,000 bond, according to records.

Pearson was being held at Southwest Multi-County Correction Center in Dickinson on Thursday evening, officials said.

Buffalo and Pearson face a maximum punishment of life in prison without parole for each count they're charged with.

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