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Forum News Service, Published August 01 2013

Ex-Virginia School Board member sentenced for solicitation of child

DULUTH, Minn. – A former Virginia School Board member was sentenced to four years of supervised probation Wednesday for asking a 12-year-old girl to engage in sexual conduct.

Donovan Eric Strong, 37, of Tower, was found guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and solicitation of a child to engage in sexual conduct, both felonies, by a St. Louis County jury in October 2011. He was acquitted of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

But in March the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the sexual assault conviction. The court, however, affirmed the conviction for solicitation of a child and sent the case back to the trial court to determine how to proceed.

On Wednesday, State District Court Judge Gary J. Pagliaccetti sentenced Strong to 15 months in prison but stayed execution of the sentence and placed Strong on four years of supervised probation, which is consistent with state sentencing guidelines.

Pagliaccetti also ordered Strong to serve 184 days at the Northeast Regional Correctional Center, pay $1,142 in restitution and $50 in fines, follow all recommendations of chemical dependency and sex offender evaluations, not use alcohol or mood-altering substances, register as a predatory offender, write an apology to the victim, and have no contact with the victim or her family.

The 12-year-old victim said Strong grasped a string bow to pull down her bikini bottom about 1 inch and directed a sexually suggestive and lewd comment to her during a boat outing on Lake Vermilion on July 2, 2011.

Under Minnesota law, if a person engages in “sexual contact” with a complainant more than 36 months younger and younger than 13, the person is guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Sexual contact includes intentional touching with sexual or aggressive intent of the victim’s intimate parts or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts.

The appeals court determined that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to prove that Strong touched the girl within the immediate area of an intimate part, which is defined as a person’s primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttocks or breast and reversed the sexual conduct conviction.

The Itasca County attorney’s office prosecuted the case due to a conflict of interest in the St. Louis County attorney’s office.