A judge has dismissed a felony sex crime charge against a Hettinger man accused of molesting a child in a Mandan restaurant.
South Central District Judge Bobbi Weiler on July 8 signed an order dismissing charges against Gregg Jacobson, 58, who faced the possibility of 20 years in prison if convicted. Jacobson was accused in March of the inappropriate touch of a 4-year-old boy in the restaurant’s restroom.
Assistant Morton County State’s Attorney Austin Gunderson on July 8 filed a motion to dismiss, saying that because of a recent ruling by Weiler “the state is unable to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Weiler in a July 1 ruling found that the child was competent to testify. She denied motions by Gunderson that would have allowed statements the child made to his mother and statements he made to a forensic interviewer to be admitted as evidence.
Weiler in her ruling said she reviewed a recording of the forensic interview several times. She questioned how the child knew why he was at the interview and what he was supposed to talk about.
“This clearly suggests coaching prior to the interview,” the judge said.
Statements made by the boy to his mother after the alleged incident were “very unclear to the Court,” Weiler wrote, adding that it appeared the mother’s story in a 911 call was different than what she said in court.
Defense attorneys Lloyd Suhr and Scott Rose in a statement said they were “very pleased with the dismissal of the charge.”
“Just the fact that he was charged has taken a devastating toll on his personal and professional life, as well as that of his family,” the statement said. There were significant issues with the evidence in the case, the attorneys said.
“We are grateful that, after we had a chance to bring those issues to the court for rulings, the state re-evaluted the case and filed the motion to dismiss,” the statement said.
Gunderson when contacted by the Tribune said he had no comment beyond his motion for dismissal.
South Central District Judge James Hill in April moved the case to trial. He told attorneys that he believed serious evidence issues and challenges lied ahead.
Weiler took over the case after Suhr and Rose requested a change of judges in early May.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com