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Betsy Simon, Forum Communications, Published October 20 2012

ND man pleads guilty to sex crime

MOTT — In a case troubled by flip-flopping pleas, a New England man charged with three felony counts for engaging in sexual acts with a child younger than age 15 entered a final guilty plea on all charges Friday during the third and last day of his trial.

However, Russell Pearson’s guilty plea is not an admission of wrongdoing, Pearson’s attorney, Kevin McCabe, said during trial Friday at the Hettinger County Courthouse in Mott.

Instead, McCabe said the plea is an acknowledgement that there is enough evidence against him to be found guilty of all three Class AA felony gross sexual imposition charges.

James Gion, Hettinger County state’s attorney, recommended that the state cap Pearson’s sentence at 12 years with five years suspended.

Pearson, born in 1958, faced a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole on each of the felony charges had he been found guilty by the jury.

The cap on the sentence was part of an agreement made between the state and the defense, McCabe said.

Judge Zane Anderson told the jurors their services would no longer be needed.

“This is not something we expected,” he told them before they were instructed to hand their notes to the bailiff to be destroyed.

“I want to make it clear that, in this instance, Mr. Pearson cannot change his plea anymore,” Anderson said. “When additional information came out before, Mr. Pearson changed his plea, but that will not happen this time.”

Gion said he told this to the mother of the victim, who was reportedly an acquaintance of Pearson.

Gion said she was concerned about a plea reversal since Pearson change his plea twice before in this case.

Anderson requested to have a pre-sentencing investigation, as required by law.

Pearson’s sentencing date will be determined later by the court after the pre-sentencing investigation is complete.

Gion also told Anderson that the mother of the victim would like to address the court, at the time of Pearson’s sentencing, either in-person or via a written statement.

Pearson will be held without bond at that Southwest Multi-County Correction Center in Dickinson while he awaits sentencing.