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Published February 06 2012

Trial starts today for man who pulled gun in North Dakota courtroom

FARGO – A convicted child molester who pulled a gun in a Hettinger, N.D., courtroom is asking the judge to suppress an audio recording of the incident before his attempted murder trial begins today in Cass County.

Vicente Chacano’s public defender also filed a motion on Monday asking Judge Steven McCullough to allow Chacano to appear in front of the jury without visible restraints and in street clothes.

An Adams County jury earlier convicted Chacano of two counts of gross sexual imposition.

Minutes later, he pulled out a 9 mm handgun and pointed it at Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers, who then slammed Chacano against the wall and disarmed him with help from Adams County Sheriff Eugene Molbert.

Chacano, of Killdeer, had been free on bond while the sex crime charges were pending.

He faces 14 counts of attempted murder – one for each member of the 12-person jury and one each for Byers and Molbert.

In a motion filed Monday, public defender Robert Quick argued that the audio recording “is much more prejudicial than probative” because it contains only the crowd’s reaction and doesn’t allow the jury to weigh Chacano’s intentions against the crowd’s reaction.

It’s not disputed that Chacano possessed a firearm, but rather whether he intended to use it to harm anyone, Quick wrote.

If the judge allows the recording, Quick is asking that audio of the verdicts be suppressed because they would bias the jury. He also asked that the convictions be deemed inadmissible. Chacano is appealing the two felony convictions, for which he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Chacano has been in the Cass County Jail since Dec. 16, after McCullough granted a change of venue because he said Chacano couldn’t obtain a fair and impartial trial in Adams County.

A pretrial conference is scheduled before the 9 a.m. trial today.

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