The Guard announced Thursday, April 1, it was gathering evidence and weighing options to address the conduct and conviction of former Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Erik Eldon Clemenson of the Fargo-based 119th Wing, also known as the Happy Hooligans. A Cass County jury found the 45-year-old guilty the same day of a Class B felony of sexual imposition and misdemeanor sexual assault.
A woman in the 119th Wing accused Clemenson of raping her at her home after they and others from the unit went out to a restaurant and bar as a reward from the unit on Nov. 7, 2019. The woman did not drink that night since she was not of legal drinking age, but Clemenson was intoxicated enough to fear getting a DUI if he drove, according to court documents.
Clemenson was the woman’s superior but not her direct supervisor. The Forum does not typically identify victims of sexual assault.
The woman agreed to let him sleep on her couch when he asked. After she got into bed, Clemenson told her he was going to sleep with her, she testified in court.
The woman said no several times as he fondled her, she said. When he started having sex with her, she said she froze.
Clemenson initially denied having sex with the woman, but he later told investigators it was consensual. He claimed the woman flirted with him multiple times, according to court documents.
The woman denied flirting with Clemenson.
The airman resigned from his Active Guard Reserve position as assistant flight chief in November, resulting in a demotion from technical sergeant to airman, the Guard confirmed.
Clemenson did not testify during the three-day trial. Assistant State's Attorney Ryan Younggren asked that Clemenson be taken into custody Thursday, a request that Judge Steven Marquart denied.
A sentencing date had not been set as of Friday. Clemenson could face up to 10 years in prison.
His attorney, Mark Friese, said it would be premature to comment on the case before sentencing. Marquart ordered a presentencing investigation, with a sentencing hearing expected in a few months, Friese said.
The woman reported Clemenson to the 119th Wing in August, according to court documents. The Guard turned the case over to the Fargo Police Department to investigate the allegations before the Cass County State’s Attorney Office filed charges in mid-October.
The Guard monitored the allegations against Clemenson but didn't investigate them prior to Thursday, according to a statement. Both the woman and Clemenson are Guard members, but the allegations happened under the Fargo Police Department's jurisdiction, said Capt. Jeremiah Colbert, a spokesman for the 119th Wing.
That means the case needed to be handled by the civilian criminal justice system, not by a military court.
"With the culmination of the jury trial, the (Guard) will now continue the military justice process," Colbert said.
The Guard called sexual misconduct a “betrayal of our brothers and sisters, as well as our values,” that would not be tolerated. It also expressed support for the woman who reported Clemenson, saying she showed “incredible courage, strength and resolve throughout this process.”
“The (Guard) takes allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously,” the statement said. “Sexual misconduct within our ranks irrevocably erodes the trust between service members, and breaks faith with the organization. It is detrimental to good order and discipline, and negatively impacts mission accomplishment.”
It’s unclear what consequences Clemenson will face from the Guard. Those with a felony conviction cannot serve in the military, including the National Guard.
"At this time, the (Guard) is evaluating all options available to the commander to address Clemenson’s misconduct and conviction as it relates to his status as a member of the military," Colbert said. "However, to protect the integrity of the military justice process, the (Guard) is unable to provide additional information regarding potential disciplinary action."