Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published August 14 2012
Retired school counselor charged with paying for sex in Grand ForksGRAND FORKS – A retired high school counselor charged with paying a female for sex in his Grand Forks home in early 2011 was arrested early Tuesday morning but quickly bailed out on the misdemeanor charge.
Michael Delmore, 60, was charged last week in state district court with hiring someone to engage in sexual acts, a Class B misdemeanor. His initial court appearance hasn’t been scheduled.
Delmore retired this spring after years as a counselor at Larimore High School, said Superintendent Roger Abbey.
Delmore lives in Grand Forks with his wife, Lois, also a teacher and a Democratic member of the North Dakota House since 1995.
His attorney, Timothy O’Keeffe of Fargo, did not return a call on Tuesday afternoon.
Delmore is the only “john” charged thus far in what Grand Forks County prosecutors call a complex operation of three people charged with pimping out a 17-year-old girl to several older men in Grand Forks in early 2011.
Joshua Harry, 27, Travis Johnson, 29, and Amanda Stewart, 22, each face a count of human trafficking involving a minor victim, a charge that under North Dakota law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Johnson also is charged with corrupting a minor for allegedly coercing the girl into sexual acts to introduce her to the
prostitution scheme using the website Backpage.com.
Jason McCarthy and Meredith Larson, the assistant state’s attorneys prosecuting the case, say their main targets are Harry, Johnson and Stewart. They allege that from November 2010 to early April 2011, the three enticed and transported the juvenile girl to “shows” involving sex-for-money encounters with at least five older men in homes and motel rooms.
One of the alleged johns is a University of North Dakota professor, who has not been charged based on “an investigative decision,” McCarthy said.
Three other men the girl said she had encounters with have not been identified, McCarthy said.
“It’s an open investigation,” he said.
The investigation began when the girl came forward, McCarthy said. “She disclosed information to a caring adult, and they contacted authorities.”
According to an affidavit from police investigator Steve Conley, the girl said Harry and Stewart took her to Delmore’s home on a Saturday night in late March or early April 2011 between 9 and 10 p.m.
Stewart first went in and collected $200 to $350 from Delmore, and then left the girl alone with him.
Delmore told investigators he had visited Backpage.com and seen the girl’s information under an escort service set up by Harry and made the appointment.
He requested certain sexual acts from her, they engaged in them, and he paid her $80. She then returned to Harry and Stewart waiting outside in a vehicle, according to Conley.
Delmore and the UND professor are listed as possible witnesses in the felony cases against Harry, Johnson and Stewart.
Delmore is charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.
In such a case, the defendant can argue he didn’t know the girl was a juvenile, McCarthy said in explaining why it’s a misdemeanor charge.
The juvenile in this matter, who is now 18 or 19, is not facing any charges in the matter, McCarthy said.
“Our position is she is a victim here,” he said. “Our focus is going to be on those we believe recruited and transported children … on the three individuals.”
Under state law, the human trafficking charges against Harry, Johnson and Stewart do not allow them to argue they did not know the girl was a minor, McCarthy said.The use of Backpage.com for soliciting sex crimes appears to be on the rise in the area, McCarthy said.
In documents filed in this human trafficking case, the then-juvenile girl is identified only by her initials. The documents indicate that she recently lived near Larimore and also, after the alleged incidents, at a residential psychiatric treatment center for young people in Fargo.
Her Larimore address raises the question of whether Delmore might have known her from school: He still worked as a counselor at the Larimore school in spring 2011.
Prosecutors say they can give little information about the alleged victim in the case because of her age at the time. There’s nothing in the investigative materials indicating that Delmore knew the girl.
Stephen J. Lee writes for the Grand Forks Herald