Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney and Firm Founder Joe Tamburino recently appeared on Fox9 News to contribute his legal insight on a high-profile case out of Meeker County. The case in question involves a family seeking justice for their teenage daughter after the man they believe allegedly sexually assaulted her was undercharged by local prosecutors.
Court documents from Meeker County show that a 21-year-old Litchfield man was charged with fifth degree criminal sexual conduct. While criminal sexual conduct is a serious allegation in and of itself, and one that poses considerable penalties, prosecutors in this case chose to pursue the charges in the fifth degree, the least severe category under which the crime can be charged. Fifth degree criminal sexual conduct is characterized by lewd acts and sexual conduct without penetration. However, the family argues that the alleged crime rose above this legal definition.
Court documents support the story provide the family and the victim, who is a juvenile. They also reveal that the victim told police penetration had occurred, all within moments of the alleged crime. This is because the victim’s mother took her to a local hospital and called police shortly after the alleged event.
Due to the victim’s story and court documents, the family believes the man should be facing tougher charges. Fifth degree criminal sexual conduct may be prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor, with a term of imprisonment of no more than one year. Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth, third, or higher degrees are much more serious felony offenses, and they carry lengthy prison sentences. Third degree criminal sexual conduct, for example, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
When commenting on the unusual charge, Attorney Tamburino drew from his own experience handling serious allegations of sex crimes and criminal sexual conduct. As he states, fifth degree criminal sexual conduct is typically charged when only touching occurs, and of a less serious nature. In this case, however, “the complaint reads like third degree criminal sexual conduct but what’s charged is a gross misdemeanor.”
In addition to facing reduced penalties and imprisonment, charging the man with fifth degree criminal sexual conduct as opposed to second or third degree criminal sexual conduct means that he can avoid a felony conviction and mandatory registration as a sex offender. For the victim’s family, this means that the suspect will still be allowed to be in the community, and could potentially pose dangers to others.
Charges of criminal sexual conduct and other sex crimes are incredibly difficult allegations, both for victims and the accused. Our criminal justice system is the venue in which these charges are presented and decided upon, and each side has their right to make their cases heard. For more information about these charges or other criminal allegations, contact Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A.