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Published January 07 2013

Rape suspect seeks to suppress evidence

MOORHEAD – Attorneys for a Fargo man accused of physically and sexually assaulting a woman in her car in downtown Moorhead last summer want a judge to suppress evidence seized from his home, including a video he made during an alleged peeping incident.

Judge Lisa Borgen set April 30 as the trial date for 46-year-old Richard Lee Haaland Jr., who faces a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Clay County District Court.

On Monday, Assistant County Attorney Pamela Harris discussed her motion asking the court to allow Haaland’s criminal past into evidence, including his rape conviction in 1984 in Becker County for which he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison.

Harris also wants jurors to see the alleged peeping video and photographs recovered from Haaland’s computer.

Justin Bruntjen, one of two attorneys representing Haaland, indicated he would object to any reference to Haaland’s criminal past, noting how old his convictions are. He said the video and pictures don’t constitute prior bad acts under the law, and Haaland wasn’t criminally charged for them.

The defense also has filed a motion to suppress evidence seized by police with a search warrant because the warrant was signed by Judge Galen Vaa after he had been removed from the case, Bruntjen said. Harris hasn’t reviewed the motion, and Borgen gave the prosecution until Jan. 22 to file briefs and disclose evidence.

The next hearing in the case to discuss evidentiary issues will be Feb. 19.

Haaland, who remains free on conditional bail after posting a $100,000 bond, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Harris said prosecutors will seek an upward departure from sentencing guidelines if Haaland is found guilty.

Attorneys estimated the trial will take 10 days to three weeks.

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