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Molester who pulled gun in courtroom to appear in Fargo

FARGO -- A convicted child molester who pulled a gun in a western North Dakota courtroom in February will appear in a Fargo courtroom on Wednesday to face attempted murder charges.

Vicente Erasno Chacano, of Killdeer, arrived at the Cass County Jail on Friday. He is scheduled to appear in person for a felony dispositional conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Cass County Courthouse.

Chief Deputy Jim Thoreson said the sheriff's office will treat Chacano the same as any other suspect of attempted murder, with armed deputies escorting him to and from the courtroom.

Chacano is charged with 14 counts of attempted murder -- one for each member of the 12-person jury that convicted him of gross sexual imposition on Feb. 4 and one count each for Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers, who prosecuted the case, and Adams County Sheriff Eugene Molbert.

Minutes after the jury convicted Chacano, he pulled out a 9 mm handgun and pointed it at Byers, who then slammed Chacano against the wall and disarmed him, The Associated Press reported. Molbert helped subdue Chacano.

No shots were fired and no one was hurt. Chacano had been free on bond while the charges were pending, the AP reported.

Chacano was sentenced to 40 years in prison on the two felony convictions.

Southwest Judicial District Judge Zane Anderson, who presided over the molestation case and witnessed the gun incident, recused himself from the attempted murder case. Two other district judges also recused themselves, citing potential conflicts.

East Central District Judge Steven McCullough granted the defense motion for a change of venue, stating in an Oct. 3 order that the prejudice against Chacano in Adams County is so great that he could not obtain a fair and impartial trial in that county.

In September, the court ordered a mental health evaluation of Chacano at the State Hospital in Jamestown to determine if he is competent to stand trial and if he lacked criminal responsibility for the attempted murder charges. The results haven't been made public.

Chacano's public defender, Robert Quick, did not return a phone message Monday.

Nowatzki is a reporter at The Forum of

Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by

Forum Communications Co.