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Hearing delayed for man charged with assault of infant

A judge on Monday delayed the preliminary hearing for a man charged with sexually assaulting an infant after the man said he couldn’t fill out an application for a public defender because of his illiteracy.

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Dickinson man Dan Pruett, 44, faces life in prison for allegedly sexually assaulting a 5-month-old girl.

While his preliminary hearing was scheduled for Monday afternoon at Stark County Courthouse, and investigators appeared ready to testify, Southwest Judicial District Judge Zane Anderson chose to wait after Pruett said he didn’t have an attorney because he couldn’t apply for one.

Because he can’t read or write, he couldn’t fill out the application for a public defender, he told Anderson, and even said he was denied help from officials at Southwest Multi-County Correction Center, where he’s being held.

“I need assistance,” he said.

Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said later Monday he had his office call the jail to make sure Pruett gets help with the form. He said all signs showed Pruett would be eligible for a public defender.

On Nov. 21, Dickinson police responded to an ambulance call for an infant in medical distress. A medical examination of the child showed evidence of serious physical and sexual abuse, which led to Pruett’s arrest later that day, the Press previously reported.

The Class AA felony carries a maximum prison sentence of life without parole.

In a separate case filed in January, Pruett is charged with aggravated assault for the injuries he caused to the child. According to that criminal complaint, he caused unconsciousness, bleeding in the brain, seizures and retinal hemorrhaging.

That charge, a Class B felony, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Henning said the state waited for further medical information before filing that charge, but that the two cases will likely be combined in the future.