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Published November 21 2011

Fargo man acquitted of rape charge

FARGO – A Cass County jury has acquitted a Fargo man of a rape charge that a district court judge initially dismissed, calling the victim’s story “implausible and incredible,” only to have the state Supreme Court reverse his decision and reinstate the charge.

Jurors on Friday found Willie Demar Midell, 20, not guilty of gross sexual imposition.

The felony charge was based on what the alleged victim told police about what happened in the early hours of Dec. 15, 2009.

“This is a terrible thing when you’re accused of something that you didn’t do,” said Gordon Dexheimer, one of two public defenders who represented Midell at trial. “I mean, this poor kid was put through hell for two years on this thing.”

Assistant Cass County State’s Attorney Mark Boening said the state is disappointed by the verdict but respects the jury’s decision.

“Ultimately, the case was kind of a he-said, she-said swearing contest,” he said.

The victim claimed Midell had sex with her while she was asleep on the couch in her apartment and that she awoke because she was having difficulty breathing, according to the police report. The woman told police she didn’t remember Midell having sex with her, but she physically felt like he had, the report states.

Midell, who was living in Moorhead at the time, told police the sex was consensual and the woman was awake the entire time.

District Court Judge Wickham Corwin dismissed the case last year, stating that the victim’s testimony that she wasn’t aware Midell was having intercourse with her “is, as a matter of law, implausible and incredible.”

The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed Corwin’s order in June. Justices opined that the state “met its minimal burden by producing testimony of the victim that raised key issues of credibility and fact.”

Dexheimer said Midell was “extremely pleased” and relieved by the jury’s quick verdict, but the lengthy case and jail time he served took a toll on him. Defense attorneys believe Midell shouldn’t have been charged in the first place, Dexheimer said.

“Having been a prosecutor in the past myself, this isn’t one I would have pushed this hard,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528