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Tearful victim recalls trauma

Her hands shook, but Tina Kaiser's voice stayed steady Friday as she described the terror she's known since her ex-husband slit her throat 16 months ago, nearly killing her.

Her hands shook, but Tina Kaiser's voice stayed steady Friday as she described the terror she's known since her ex-husband slit her throat 16 months ago, nearly killing her.

"You will never spend enough time in custody for this fear to go away," she said, reading a two-page statement to her attacker, who sat handcuffed 10 feet away in the courtroom.

Minutes later Greg Kaiser was sentenced to 18 years in prison for attempted murder, a charge he pleaded guilty to Friday morning in Cass County District Court following an agreement with prosecutors. The plea got Kaiser three more years in prison than he would have received in January, when the 39-year-old from Glyndon, Minn., backed out of an agreement moments before a hearing.

After the sentencing, Tina Kaiser declared herself a survivor of domestic violence and said she's no longer her ex-husband's victim.

"Obviously she would like him to go away forever," said Glen Hase of Fargo's Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.

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But Tina Kaiser and her family understood the state's reasoning and were happy with the outcome, Hase said.

With credit he received for the 15 months he's served since his arrest, Kaiser faces at least another 14 years in prison before parole. As a violent offender, he must serve at least 85 percent, or about 15 years and four months, of his 18-year sentence before he's eligible for release.

Following the joint recommendation, Judge Michael McGuire sentenced Kaiser to 20 years, two of them suspended, and five years of supervised probation. Attempted murder, a class A felony, is punishable by up to 20 years in North Dakota.

State's Attorney Birch Burdick called the sentence tough but reasonable. Getting Kaiser to plea before his Oct. 28 trial date saved Tina Kaiser and a son who saw the assault from painful moments on the witness stand, Burdick said.

As part of the agreement, the state dropped two felony counts of burglary and criminal trespass in the case. By pleading, Kaiser waived his right to appeal and any post-conviction relief. He's also forbidden from making contact with Tina Kaiser and one of their sons after his release.

The one detail not settled by the plea agreement was what to do with the $8,700 in medical expenses incurred by Tina Kaiser. The state had reimbursed the amount, so on Friday Burdick asked for Greg Kaiser to repay it.

Defense attorney James Brothers objected, saying Kaiser already has to pay $50 a month for child support and would be unable to make restitution. McGuire agreed, and said it was more important to make sure the child support is paid.

Kaiser also pleaded guilty Friday to felony burglary for another incident involving his ex-wife. In that case, McGuire sentenced him to five years in prison, concurrent with the other sentence. The state dropped a misdemeanor theft charge in response.

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Another perspective

Recounting the attack for McGuire, Burdick described how Kaiser smashed through Tina's deadlocked West Fargo apartment door on June 6, 2002, broke her nose with a punch and cut her at least twice with a plastic utility knife. Had she not gotten to the hospital as fast as she did, Tina Kaiser likely would have bled to death, Burdick said.

"He tried to kill her and he nearly was successful," he said.

Brothers said his client regretted what he did but hoped to tell his side of the story at trial. Kaiser, who declined to comment on his behalf Friday, said in the past he had gone to Tina's apartment to settle a child custody dispute.

"There is a different perspective here," Brothers told McGuire on Friday.

Earlier, after taking an oath just feet in front of her ex-husband, Tina Kaiser took the witness stand to read her statement. Her papers trembling, she told how her sons have nightmares about their father, "a violent monster," trying to kill her.

"You will never be the man, dad or husband we once knew," she said, staring at her words.

Later, as sheriff's deputies escorted the defendant from the courtroom, Tina Kaiser turned away from the aisle and toward a supporter. Greg Kaiser glanced her way but saw only her back.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538

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