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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published February 14 2014

Man seeks dismissal of sex assault conviction

GRAND FORKS – Already convicted Oct. 31 of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl two years ago in a Grand Forks hotel and slated to be sentenced in days to what could be life in prison, Sean Kovalevich appeared in court Thursday seeking to have the case dismissed.

He said through his attorneys that prosecutors went “beyond negligence” in providing important evidence just last month.

Meanwhile, Kovalevich is facing a felony charge in Towner County, where he was living when arrested last fall, of corruption of the minor girl and may face more serious charges in Fargo, involving the same girl when she still was 14.

A jury convicted Kovalevich, 28, last fall of sexual acts twice in February 2012 with the girl, then 14, in the Canad Inn hotel. Each count is a Class AA felony with a top prison sentence of life. He also was convicted of one count of a similar act in August 2012 in the hotel. Because she was 15 by then, it’s a Class C felony with a top prison sentence of five years.

Kovalevich came to North Dakota in 2010 from his home state of Delaware to work in a Catholic parish, school and camp in Belcourt, where he met the girl.

Hotel question

At trial and in court documents, it was said Kovalevich took the girl to a Fargo hotel near the dates in 2012 when the sex acts occurred in Grand Forks.

Which Fargo hotel they stayed at wasn’t established at his two-day trial in state district court, and the victim said she couldn’t remember. It was considered irrelevant to the Grand Forks case.

Investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation pursued the Fargo hotel question because charges against Kovalevich are possible from the Cass County state’s attorney. On Oct. 25, days before the trial started, BCI agent Mike Ness determined the two stayed at the Fargo Ramada on Feb. 6, 2012, after staying in Grand Forks on Feb. 4 and 5.

Jason McCarthy, assistant state’s attorney for Grand Forks County, said Thursday that he provided the information to Kovalevich’s defense on the first day of the trial in October.

Kovalevich’s attorneys, Clint Morgenstern and Kiara Kraus-Parr, received information last month from Jason McCarthy, assistant state’s attorney for Grand Forks County, about the Ramada. Morgenstern filed a motion to have the case dismissed, saying the evidence might clear Kovalevich of the Grand Forks crimes.

McCarthy responded that Kovalevich already admitted taking the girl to hotels in both cities, and the Fargo information doesn’t clear him of what he was convicted of doing in Grand Forks. He also said the defense had the information in October. Kraus-Parr acknowledged Thursday in court that in October she should have asked for a recess to examine the information before the trial started.

McCarthy also said Thursday that Kovalevich had missed the procedural deadlines for filing such a motion.

Judge Sonja Clapp said she would rule soon on the motion to dismiss the case.