BISMARCK, North Dakota — The case of a man accused of keeping a female acquaintance locked in the basement of a Cavalier home and repeatedly raping and torturing her has ended with the man free after a plea deal and the whereabouts of the woman unknown.
Cavalier's police chief and the head of a victims' advocacy group find the result dissatisfying, while the man's attorney says his client maintains that anything that occurred was consensual.
The man initially faced 26 felony counts of gross sexual imposition, accused of physically and sexually abusing the woman more than 20 times in early 2013 and videotaping the incidents.
Police said they found rubber gloves and fabric apparently used as blindfolds and gags, along with blood throughout the home. Authorities allege the man used rope, zip-ties, duct tape and hose clamps to restrain the woman, blaring a radio so passers-by couldn't hear her screams. She eventually escaped and went to a business to seek help.
The Associated Press does not typically release the names of people who might be victims of sexual abuse, or identify suspects if doing so could potentially identify a possible sex abuse victim.
In addition to gross sexual imposition — a charge that carries a sentence of up to life in prison without parole — the man was charged with aggravated assault-domestic violence and drug possession.
Under a deal with prosecutors this month, he pleaded guilty to felony reckless endangerment and entered Alford pleas to aggravated assault-domestic violence and drug charges. An Alford plea means a suspect does not admit guilt but acknowledges there's enough evidence for a conviction. Other charges were dismissed.
Cavalier Police Chief Steve Yttredahl said the prosecutor who handled the case cited "the inability to locate the victim" as a factor in not taking the case to trial.
The man was given credit for the one year and 74 days he had spent behind bars before he posted bond last June and put on supervised probation for five years. Defense attorney Steven Mottinger said his client "chose to take advantage of an offer" by the prosecution.
"He had maintained throughout the entire case ... anything that happened between him and the alleged victim was consensual," Mottinger said.
Yttredahl did not criticize the prosecutor, but said, "I would have liked to have seen a more severe sentence."
"It is by far one of the most serious and egregious cases of domestic violence coupled with sexual assault this department has dealt with," he said in a statement.
Pembina County State's Attorney Stephenie Davis and Assistant State's Attorney Barbara Whelan, who handled the case, did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Janelle Moos, executive director of North Dakota's Council on Abused Women's Services, said she believed police had "a well-documented case."
"They interviewed both victim and offender, had numerous counts of evidence (including) videotapes, physical signs of violence that had been perpetrated on the victim," she said. "There was enough to move forward on this case."
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