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Kay Cooley, Forum News Service, Published June 12 2013

Halstad mayor facing rape charge gets restraining order against accuser

ADA, Minn. – In a courtroom here on Wednesday, the mayor of Halstad denied multiple rape charges against him and tried to make sure the alleged victim stays away from his children.

A civil restraining order has been issued in Norman County District Court, not against Steve Sortland, but the female acquaintance who has accused him of raping her in late May.

Steve Sortland entered not guilty pleas Wednesday to charges of first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Sortland said he had no comment on the charges.

“We’re going to be set for a scheduling conference and there will be further proceedings and we’ll just see what happens,” his defense attorney, Joel Arnason, said Wednesday.

The restraining order was issued Wednesday morning, protecting Sortland’s three children from his accuser.

In court documents, Sortland says the woman approached them and made inappropriate comments, damaged several items in their home and stole things from his children.

“I really don’t have enough information to make further comments right now,” Arnason said of the restraining order.

Attempts to reach the alleged victim were unsuccessful.

The Forum typically does not identify victims in cases of sexual assault allegations.

Sortland has taken a leave of absence from his post as mayor. His next court date is set for July 24.

Minnesota sentencing guidelines for a conviction on the more serious first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, which alleges forceful or coercive penetration causing injury, calls for between 12 and 30 years in prison, depending on the criminal history of the offender.

Sentencing guidelines for the third-degree charge call for between four and 15 years.

Kay Cooley is a reporter for WDAY-TV.