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Dave Olson, Published September 27 2012

Clay prosecutor concerned rape suspect could flee after bailing out

MOORHEAD – Assistant Clay County Attorney Pam Harris expressed strong disappointment Thursday with the amount of bail set for a man accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her car.

“He is a flight risk. He has a lot of financial ability to flee,” Harris said, referring to Richard Lee Haaland Jr., 46, of Fargo, who is charged in Clay County District Court with first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Haaland was released from jail Wednesday after posting $100,000 bond through a bail bond company. It is unknown how much of his own money he had to put up, or how much collateral he had to provide, but it is common for defendants to pay 10 percent of the bond amount.

At a hearing Wednesday morning, Clay County District Court Judge Lisa Borgen set conditions of release for Haaland at $500,000 bail without conditions, or $100,000 bail with conditions.

Harris had requested

$1 million bail, which she said is the most she’s ever asked for in a criminal case.

She said when Haaland was arrested, a bag was found in his north Fargo home containing a “substantial” amount of money and a passport. Harris said Haaland has since surrendered his passport, but she said he’s still a strong flight risk.

Haaland is accused of assaulting a woman early on the morning of Sept. 6 in downtown Moorhead. According to court papers, after the assault the woman flagged down a vehicle and her assailant, who had been chasing her, fled.

Haaland’s next court appearance is set for Oct. 5.

The conditions of his release include that he:

E Doesn’t leave Minnesota without written court approval;

E Keep the court and his attorney informed of his address;

E Has no contact with the victim in the case;

E Stays law abiding;

E Submits to random drug testing.

Harris said first-degree criminal sexual assault cases typically involve bond amounts in the $100,000-$200,000 range.

“I don’t view this as a typical case,” she said, adding that in addition to the flight risk involved, she is concerned about the level of violence in the assault and that it appeared to be a random incident.

Harris said with all that is happening in the community these days, people should be aware of their surroundings and emphasize personal safety and taking precautions.

Ken Kohler, an area attorney who has served in the past as the Clay County attorney, a job Borgen has also held, said conditions of release are intended to do two things: ensure that a defendant makes future court appearances and preclude threats to the community.

Kohler said in the case of high bail amounts, defendants usually pay 10 percent of the amount to a bond company “and sign over their house” to cover the remaining value of the bond, creating an incentive to show up for court.

He said prior felonies “raise the bar” when it comes to bail.

Haaland was convicted in 1984 in Becker County and sentenced to 2½ years in prison for a rape conviction. In that case, he sexually forced himself on a woman out for a walk.

Also, Haaland was sentenced in 1993 to serve more than 8 years on federal charges related to distributing and growing marijuana.

Kohler said that while past convictions are a major consideration in setting bond amounts, ties to the community can counter balance such concerns.

According to a complaint filed in Clay County District Court, callers to police stated that Haaland owns his home, is the manager of a food warehouse and the owner of a business that cleans and installs beer taps for more than 80 businesses.

“You need to look at the big picture to assess (bail),” Kohler said, adding that in the case in question, community connections may offset some prior history.

“I can’t say the bail she (Borgen) set is out of line,” Kohler said, adding that conditions placed on Haaland’s release will also work to ensure he makes future court appearances.

“They can keep tabs on him pretty well, especially if they’re going to do random testing,” Kohler said. “If he tries to take off, we’re going to know fairly quickly.”

John Kostouros, director of the Minnesota Court Information Office, said Minnesota’s constitution guarantees all defendants the right to bail.

“That’s often misperceived because people see on TV cases where the judge says, ‘No bail,’ ” Kostouros said.

“But in Minnesota, you are entitled to bail,” he added. “The judge’s decision is really what bail to set.”

Kostouros said the primary purpose of bail is to ensure that the person appears at the next court hearing.

A message left for Judge Borgen, who was out of town Thursday, was not returned at the time this story went to print. Judges generally are not permitted to comment on active cases.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555