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Judge tosses assault case during trial

In a rare legal step, a Clay County District Court judge cut short a sexual assault trial and acquitted the defendant before the case could go to the jury.

In a rare legal step, a Clay County District Court judge cut short a sexual assault trial and acquitted the defendant before the case could go to the jury.

Judge Lisa Borgen made the ruling in the trial of Tenesee Tuon Wilson, 25, who was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The prosecution's case began Wednesday, but proceedings ended abruptly Friday when Borgen granted a defense motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction.

"She (Borgen) was very courageous, in my opinion," said Joe Parise, one of Wilson's attorneys.

Parise said the state's case had a number of problems, including inconsistent statements made by a woman who said Wilson forced her to have sex during a party at Wilson's home in December 2006.


Parise said the court also may have been troubled by aggressive interrogation methods Moorhead police used while interviewing Wilson.

Parise said a member of the jury approached him after the trial to tell him: "I didn't think that happened in this country."

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton agreed Monday that the interview was aggressive, but he said some cases require a hard rather than a soft approach to questioning suspects.

Melton said he believed what the woman told him about the incident, but he said the prosecution may have been hurt by inconsistent statements she gave regarding what happened during the party.

Parise said it was the defense's contention that Wilson and the woman engaged in consensual kissing and touching in a bathroom.

He said claims that nonconsensual intercourse took place in a bedroom were untrue.

Parise said he was surprised that Melton brought charges after DNA testing found no trace of Wilson's DNA on the woman and no trace of the woman's DNA on the bed where she said the assault took place.

"There was nothing that put her in that bedroom," Parise said.


Melton said lack of DNA is not necessarily telling.

But he said the DNA issue, combined with the police interview and the woman's conflicting statements, probably figured into Borgen's decision.

"To some degree it's difficult for me to accept, because I sat and talked with the victim and she was very emotional. But in court, she wasn't able to provide detail," Melton said.

"The judge did the right thing. She saw all the evidence," he said.

"The important thing is that ultimately the system works," he added.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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