Adams trial takes unexpected twist
The assault trial of Detroit Lakes Superintendent Mark Adams took an unexpected turn Tuesday when Mark Rothschadl, the man he is accused of assaulting, collapsed while testifying and was taken to the hospital by an EMS crew.
Rothschadl, 47, had testified for several hours on behalf of the prosecution Tuesday morning.
After an hour break for lunch, testimony resumed at 1 p.m. with Rothschadl under cross-examination by defense attorney Peter Wold of Minneapolis.
Over the next 45 minutes, Rothschadl's answers grew increasingly vague and confused, to the exasperation of Wold, until at the end Rothschadl didn't seem to understand even what a grand jury was, or remember that he had testified before one in late October.
At that point -- about 1:45 p.m. -- in the middle of answering a question about the assault incident, Rothschadl had what appeared to be a seizure -- first turning completely around to stare at the wall behind him, then turning back, grabbing at the air several times, and uttering a long, frightening groan as he collapsed, hitting his head on the witness table and landing out of sight on the floor.
Immediately, several bailiffs, a sheriff's investigator and several tribal police officers (there to testify) administered first aid and called for an ambulance.
This happened in front of the stunned jury, which was then led out of the courtroom. After a few more minutes of first aid being administered by law enforcement, District Judge Mark Hansen had the entire courtroom cleared of spectators -- about 20 people in all. Rothschadl was taken out on a gurney a few minutes later by the ambulance crew.
He was treated in the emergency room and released, according to a spokeswoman for St. Mary's Regional Health Center.
The trial, which started Monday with jury selection, was adjourned for the day. It is not known if it will resume Wednesday morning as scheduled.
Rothschadl said he farms about 400 acres and has 1,200 hogs on a 1,000-acre farm between Ogema and Waubun, in Becker County near the Mahnomen County line.
He married Terri Anderson in 1994 and they have two children together, both in elementary school.
Anderson worked as an educational consultant and traveled frequently.
On Jan. 3, 2006, Rothschadl said he found out his wife was having an affair with Adams, who was superintendent of the Deer River School District at the time.
"Before that, for a long time I had kind of known something was going on," he testified. "Things were changing for her, she was not very happy, not like the way it used to be. She would never say anything, but telephone calls kept coming all the time, from two different numbers -- one from Coleraine (where Adams lived with his wife, Becky and their three children) and the Deer River School District.
"I'd walk in the house and she'd slam down the phone quick, or if she were on her laptop she'd slam down the top." When pressed about the calls, she finally told him it was the number of a friend, Mark Adams.
When Rothschadl called back that number, he asked Adams "why are you calling my house all the time?"
"He said, quite flippantly, actually, 'I'm in love with your wife. We're going to be together,' something like that. I was in total disbelief, I didn't think Terri was capable of something like that," Rothschadl said.
He said Terri then started talking about divorce, and how she was probably going to take the kids with her and how they would probably have to sell the farm and divide the proceeds.
"I had to pick myself up off the ground, almost literally, I thought we had a good marriage," he said.
She started divorce proceedings almost immediately, and the two agreed to joint physical custody of the children.
Adams, who landed the superintendent's job for the Detroit Lakes School District in the spring of 2006, also divorced his wife. He is on paid administrative leave.
Rothschadl was adamant that he did not want Adams involved with his children.
"They were dealing with enough, I didn't think it would be good for them at all," he said.
Rothschadl said he had to "fight like a dog to keep it (the farm)," together in one piece, but he and his ex-wife eventually agreed that he would build her a new home on their lake lot on White Earth Lake and the farm would stay intact.
He was working on that new home when Adams called on Sept. 9.
"'I want to settle this today,'" Rothschadl said Adams told him. "'I know where you are now, I know where your farm is -- I'm going to find you and settle this, I'm sick of your threats, I'm going to settle this.' I said 'what threats?' I told him I was going home and hung up the phone."
On his way from the cabin to the farm he met his ex-wife, ex-mother-in-law and his two children in a car returning from a festival in Naytahwaush. He told them he had an "appointment" at the farm and would meet them later for supper.
They later interpreted it to mean an appointment with Adams. He said it was actually an appointment with neighbor Ron Lanoue, who runs a skid steer loader business and was going to help him get 80 sheets of drywall under cover because it looked like rain that night. The material had been delivered to the farm instead of the cabin by mistake.
But Adams showed up at the farm later that afternoon. "He pulled almost right up to me," Rothschadl said. "I thought he was going to run me down at first ... He got out of his car and started walking towards me. He said 'I'm sick of your threats -- Terri and I are going to be together and I'm going to be your kids' stepfather and develop a relationship with your kids.'"
Rothschadl said he replied: "I don't think you're going to be getting real close to my kids any time soon."
Rothschadl said Adams told him "you don't have anything to say about that."
"At that point I put my arm out," Rothschadl testified. "He was getting really close, then crack! He hit me, with his fist, I guess. I don't recall. I think he might have knocked me out. I got up. He was leaning against his vehicle with his arms crossed, like this (he demonstrated). The first thing out of his mouth was 'this is what I do.'"
Rothschadl said he went into the house and called the police to report he had been assaulted by Adams. A Becker County dispatcher testified that his call was received at 5:01 p.m.
Another dispatcher testified that Adams called five minutes later to also report an assault. Asked if he had been injured, Adams told her he "thought he had a broken hand," she said.
Tribal police called an ambulance at the time, which Rothschadl refused.
His brother, Dave, came over that night at his request to help him, since he was throwing up repeatedly and his eye was swollen shut.
During cross-examination, Wold pointed to conflicting statements that Rothschadl had given. He told a tribal officer that he had agreed to meet Adams at the farm in half an hour.
"You don't remember telling that to the tribal police officer?" Wold asked.
"That's not what happened," Rothschadl responded.
"It's hard to remember," Rothschadl said later. "It's like I remember bits and pieces ... my head was all messed up."
Wold reminded him he had told several doctors -- at Mahnomen and Fargo -- that he had not been knocked out during the incident. Several medical personnel who examined him in the days after the injury reported he was "alert" and "oriented," Wold added.
"My head had just been smashed in -- I wasn't thinking right," Rothschadl said.
Rothschadl suffered a broken eye socket that had to be rebuilt under a surgical procedure that included implanting a plate and screw, he said.
He continues to suffer from double vision, light sensitivity and major headaches, and said he rarely drives now.
The trial started with opening statements by County Attorney Joe Evans and defense attorney Wold.
Evans outlined the two charges that Adams faces -- first degree assault and third degree assault -- that came from a grand jury indictment Nov. 1.
Evans said a neighbor, Matthew Lanoue and his friend Chris Brunner would testify that Adams was looking for Rothschadl much earlier in the day, stopping to ask for directions to the farm around noon or 1 p.m., with the implication that he was intent on confronting Rothschadl that day.
In his opening statement, Wold said the charges were the result of a conspiracy among Rothschadl and his friends.
"There are two sides to every story," he told the 12-person jury, "and I am going to give you a side that will be supported by the evidence in this case ... Terri left Mark Rothschadl and he couldn't handle it. He's angry and he's after revenge. Mark Rothschadl got angry and hit Mark Adams. Mark Adams hit back in self-defense. Mark Rothschadl suffered a broken eye socket. He lost."
All Mark Adams wanted was to "talk peace with Mark Rothschadl," Wold said. "Mark Rothschadl got his friends to help him -- charging Mark Adams with assault was just another way to get revenge."
"We all know most romantic relationships don't last forever," Wold told the jury. "Half of marriages end in divorce..." Through her educational career, Terri Anderson made new friends and grew apart from her husband.
"Mark (Adams) understood the loneliness Terri felt because he, too, felt lonely in his marriage," Wold said.
While the Adams' divorce went smoothly and amicably, the Rothschadls' did not, he said.
"Mark Rothschadl was hurt, angry, probably embarrassed by his wife leaving -- he blamed one person -- Mark Adams."
The two men fought that day after Rothschadl struck the first blow, Wold said.
Store receipts from a Fergus Falls ATV dealer and the Detroit Lakes Wal-Mart show that two witnesses -- Matthew Lanoue and Chris Brunner -- who told the grand jury that Adams showed up for directions around noon on the day of the alleged assault, were off in their timetable by several hours.
"You can decide if it was a mistake or if it was intentional -- designed for some reason, like carrying out a vendetta for Ron Lanoue's best friend," Wold said.
"Mark Adams went to the meeting (with Rothschadl) thinking it was water under the bridge, that it was man-to-man. Mark Rothschadl tried to get Mark Adams, but his blows didn't land. Now Mark Adams is sitting here hoping this latest one doesn't either."