W.F. couple convicted of child rape
An East Central District Court jury has convicted a West Fargo couple of raping two children. The jury on Monday found 35-year-old Andrew Muhle guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of abuse or neglect of a child. Prosecut...
An East Central District Court jury has convicted a West Fargo couple of raping two children.
The jury on Monday found 35-year-old Andrew Muhle guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of abuse or neglect of a child.
Prosecutors say he raped a 4-year-old girl at least twice, once in front of an 8-year-old boy, leading to the abuse charge.
His wife, Shannon Muhle, 31, was convicted of abuse or neglect of a child for not stopping her husband from abusing the girl and with gross sexual imposition for raping the same 8-year-old boy.
A third child, a 7-year-old boy, said he witnessed sexual acts between Andrew Muhle and the girl.
The jury got the case just after 10:30 a.m. Friday after hearing two days of testimony from, among others, all three children and both Muhles.
The jury of four women and eight men broke for the weekend at 4:30 p.m. Friday and returned for deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday. The verdict came back about 2:30 p.m.
The trial took place at Fargo's federal courthouse because of space limitations at the Cass County Courthouse. It returned to the county courthouse for Monday's deliberations and the reading of the verdict.
Neither Andrew nor Shannon Muhle, 207 9½ Ave. W., showed visible reaction when the verdict was read. The victims were not present.
Steve Mottinger, Andrew Muhle's attorney, moved for a mistrial based on a column in Sunday's Forum about a reporter's reaction to covering a case involving sexual abuse against a small child. Judge Steven McCullough denied the motion.
McCullough ordered a pre-sentence investigation. He did not set a sentencing date.
Joe Johnson, Shannon Muhle's attorney, did not talk to reporters after the verdict.
Mottinger told reporters that despite the outcome, the trial went smoothly.
"This was a terribly difficult case for everybody involved," he said. "Obviously, the jury worked long and hard."
He declined to speculate on why jurors took so long to reach a decision.
His client, he said, is "disappointed. That's a tough thing, to stand in court and hear a jury say 'guilty' on all counts."
It's likely the verdict will be appealed, Mottinger said, although a final decision on that will be made after the sentencing.
Cass County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Boening, the prosecutor, said lengthy deliberations were a sign the jury was conscientious.
The often-graphic, straightforward testimony of the children was possible because they had a good support system of social workers and investigators, Boening said.
"I think they realized they weren't alone in this," he said.
Boening said he wasn't certain what he would recommend for a sentence.
One of the gross sexual imposition counts against Andrew Muhle is a class AA felony, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. The second gross sexual imposition charge against him and the single gross sexual imposition charge against Shannon Muhle are class A felonies, with a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The abuse or neglect charges are Class B felonies, with a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Boening said whatever he recommends, it probably will be on the upper end of the maximums.
The jurors immediately left the courthouse. One declined comment at the courthouse, a second declined comment when contacted by phone and the others could not be reached.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541