The first criminal case filed in McIntosh County in 2013 was an unusual one. In fact, the prosecutor in the case had never filed an adultery charge in 30 years on the job.
Matthew Stasiulaitis, 23, was charged Jan. 3 with adultery for allegedly having a sexual relationship with someone other than his wife in November and December. According to court documents, his wife, Heather Stasiulaitis, found out about the affair through law enforcement officers. When she asked what she could do about the situation, an officer told her she could file for divorce or get the state’s attorney to charge her husband with adultery.
Under North Dakota law, adultery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and fines of up to $1,000. An adultery charge must be brought within one year of the time of the offense, and people who disclose information about sexual acts with another person during a divorce, separation or annulment case cannot be prosecuted.
“Only the spouse can sign the complaint, and she wanted to sign the complaint against her husband,” McIntosh County State’s Attorney Terry Elhard said about the recent case. Victims do not make charging decisions in other crimes.
The adultery law is rarely used, and Elhard said he’s never had someone go through with having a spouse charged. In another case, a wife changed her mind after initially seeking to have her husband charged. But in the Stasiulaitis case, Elhard said there was no changing her mind. He gave Heather Stasiulaitis plenty of time between drawing up the charges and actually filing them, but she was resolute.
“I guess she’s upset with him,” Elhard said.
According to court documents, Matthew and Heather Stasiulaitis were married Oct. 30, 2008, in Clarke County, Ga.
Matthew Stasiulaitis’ first appearance in the case is scheduled for Monday in McIntosh County.
Numerous states have adultery laws, though such cases are rarely prosecuted. A judge dismissed a Cass County adultery case in 2005, ruling the law was unconstitutional, but one judge’s ruling is not necessarily binding on another judge. Elhard does not believe any judge in the South Central Judicial District has ruled on an adultery case. He also has not talked to any prosecutors who have filed an adultery case, because he’s not aware of any who have in the state.
The North Dakota Supreme Court hasn’t taken up the law’s constitutionality, with the only cases on the matter presented to the high court having to do with whether prosecutors should have drawn up charges for a spurned spouse.
“It could be challenged,” Elhard said about the charge.
Reach Jenny Michael at 701-250-8225 or email@example.com.