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Sex crime suspect facing potential life sentence pleads guilty to misdemeanor

Sex crime suspect facing potential life sentence pleads guilty to misdemeanor

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A Bismarck man facing a felony sex crime charge that could have put him behind bars for life and was based partly on cellphone audio recordings pleaded guilty Friday to an amended misdemeanor charge.

Blaine Hardy, 23, was charged in August after police said a woman could be heard saying “no” and telling him to stop several times during a three-minute audio recording on her cellphone.

There was disagreement about how an alleged shower incident involving the two in a Bismarck apartment came about, defense attorney Lloyd Suhr said.

Assistant Burleigh County State’s Attorney Anna Argenti said the amended charge is the one she would have filed if she’d had information that came to light “after a long investigation.”

“It much better fits the situation,” she said.

Suhr said that had the case gone to trial, he would have asked that the charge be reduced to misdemeanor sexual assault. The woman involved has “exhibited very different viewpoints” since the alleged incident, he said.

The woman was contacted about the amended charge and agreed to it, Argenti said.

South Central District Judge Douglas Bahr ordered a presentence investigation. Sentencing is tentatively set for early June.

A guilty plea or conviction for AA felony gross sexual imposition -- the initial charge against Hardy -- carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life without parole. The new charge of Class A misdemeanor sexual assault is punishable by up to one year behind bars and a $3,000 fine. Argenti said she would be ready to make a sentencing recommendation after the presentence investigation is completed.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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