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Chris Bieri, Grand Forks Herald, Published May 25 2012

Larimore man pleads guilty to sexual abuse of boy during six-year span

A courtroom full of emotional friends and family members of the victim observed Thursday as a Larimore, N.D., man pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a boy during a six-year span.

Adam Scott Hamilton, 33, is facing a Class AA felony charge of continual sexual abuse of a minor in Grand Forks County District Court.

Hamilton chose an open guilty plea as opposed to accepting the state’s plea agreement. As part of the pre-sentence investigation, Hamilton will receive an independent examination from Fargo psychologist Stacey Benson.

Defense attorney Blake Hankey said in court Hamilton could not get an appointment with Benson until mid-August and her report would not be ready until mid-September.

One of the family members who departed a packed courthouse late Thursday morning was visibly shaken and upset that sentencing in the case won’t take place until Oct. 1.

According to a court affidavit, Hamilton admitted to Grand Forks County Sheriff’s deputies that he sexually assaulted the boy in residences in Grand Forks and Cass counties starting when the boy was 6 and continuing until he was 12.

Members of the victim’s family were displeased in March when Hamilton bailed out of jail in March on $10,000 cash or surety bond.

Hankey, whose office is just across the street from the courthouse, said some of the victim’s family members were outside his office following the appearance.

“I realize it’s an emotional case, but there’s no justification for family members camping out in front of my law office to harass me, my staff or my clients,” Hankey said. “There is no place for that. It does nobody any good.”

Prosecutor Jason McCarthy said there is no minimum mandatory sentence for continual sexual abuse of a minor.

Hamilton, who could face up to life in prison, will be sentenced by Judge Joel Medd, who blocked off a half day on the calendar for sentencing.

Neither Hankey nor McCarthy would comment on why Hamilton chose an open guilty plea as opposed to a state-offered plea agreement.

“In any case, a plea agreement is kind of a cap for the maximum sentence a judge can impose,” McCarthy said. “Under an open plea, a judge can impose anything up to the maximum.”

He said the state will rely on the pre-sentence investigation at sentencing, and may call witnesses.

While Hamilton didn’t accept the state’s plea offer, McCarthy said a conviction was still a positive.

“It’s good Mr. Hamilton accepted responsibility,” he said.

Hankey indicated in court that he will also call character witnesses in support of Hamilton.