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Published February 01 2013

Man accused in Moorhead sex assault won’t face peeping charges

FARGO – A man accused of physically and sexually assaulting a woman in her car in Moorhead last summer won’t face charges for alleged peeping incidents in Fargo, despite what a prosecutor called “very disturbing” videos found on the man’s computer.

From the videos, authorities determined that the Fargo home of Richard Lee Haaland Jr. had a motion-activated video surveillance system with two cameras: one pointed at a basement shower and the other at the front door, Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Tristan Van de Streek wrote in a letter declining charges.

“This is a frustrating case because the contents of Haaland’s computer are very disturbing, however nothing on the computer can be specifically linked to a crime that occurred in Fargo within the relevant statute of limitations,” he wrote in the letter dated Wednesday.

Haaland, 46, is charged in Clay County District Court with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the assault on Sept. 6 in Moorhead. A jury trial is set for April 30.

As part of the assault investigation, authorities seized Haaland’s computer from his Fargo home and analyzed it. Videos created by the surveillance system were automatically placed in a folder on his computer, Van de Streek wrote.

Many of the videos showed a woman taking showers in the basement. Haaland also had videos that appeared to have been taken with a handheld camera from outside of his home showing the same woman changing clothes in an upstairs bedroom, Van de Streek wrote.

While it appeared the videos were created surreptitiously, the woman refused to participate in the prosecution of the case, telling authorities she was aware of the videos and didn’t consider herself to be a victim, Van de Streek wrote.

The camera system also captured video of two women – one of whom had dated Haaland – getting spray tans while nude in Haaland’s basement, the letter stated. Van de Streek found that it didn’t appear Haaland acted with criminal intent when those videos were created.

Another video found on Haaland’s computer appeared to depict a neighbor of Haaland’s sleeping nude in her bedroom, Van de Streek wrote. The neighbor was interviewed and reported that the incident occurred in 2009, consistent with the computer evidence, he wrote.

But because surreptitious intrusion – the criminal charge for peeping – is a Class A misdemeanor, the statute of limitations is two years and Haaland couldn’t be charged, Van de Streek wrote.

At the end of the letter, Van de Streek stated that “if any additional evidence is developed or if witness cooperation is obtained, I would be more than happy to review this decision.”

A cellphone number listed for Haaland in court documents is no longer in service, and no one answered the door Friday morning at his home at 718 1st St. N. He remains free on conditional bail after posting a $100,000 bond.

His attorney, Justin Bruntjen of Minneapolis, said Friday he couldn’t comment on the charges declined in Cass County. The judge in the Clay County case has issued a gag order prohibiting attorneys from talking to the media about the case.

In the Clay County case, Bruntjen is seeking to suppress evidence seized from Haaland’s home, including the video involving the neighbor.

The next hearing in the case to discuss evidentiary issues is set for Feb. 19.

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