Hawley man claims innocence at sentencing for sexual assault

Alexander Cookson
Alexander Cookson

MOORHEAD — A Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday, Jan. 23, to 15 years behind bars for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman while he was on work release from the Clay County Jail.

Clay County District Judge Michael Fritz sentenced Alexander John Cookson, 29, of Hawley, Minn., on a felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

A felony count of false imprisonment against Cookson was dismissed before a trial in November, in which a jury found Cookson guilty of criminal sexual conduct.

Cookson is eligible for supervised release after serving 10 years.

When the judge asked Cookson if he had anything to add before being sentenced, Cookson maintained his innocence. “I didn’t rape that woman. I was set up by my best friend,” he said.

According to Cookson’s attorney, Ruth Lee, Cookson was referring to information that arose during the jury trial regarding the victim and Cookson’s friend.

According to court records, the victim told Clay County sheriff’s deputies that Cookson, an acquaintance, was on work release from the county jail on Dec. 13, 2017, when he forced her into a car in Hitterdal, Minn., and forced her to perform oral sex.

Cookson later called the victim several times, including from the jail, to apologize, court records stated.

Cookson was also charged with attempted bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery after he allegedly tried to bribe the victim of the sexual assault by directing a third party to contact the victim with an offer to buy her a mobile home if she made the case go away.

That case is headed for trial in March.