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Bemidji man sentenced to 14 years in prison in molestation case

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BEMIDJI - Mark Clifford Newell, 37, of Bemidji, was sentenced Monday in Beltrami County District Court for serious felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

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A jury found Newell guilty March 19.

Judge Shari Schluchter sentenced Newell to 171 months in prison. He will serve 115 months in lockup with 56 months parole and a 10-year period of conditional release, according to Assistant Beltrami County Attorney Randy Burg, who prosecuted the case. Burg said Newell also will participate in sexual offender treatment while in prison.

According to the criminal complaint, at 11:40 a.m. Dec. 16, 2007, a couple met with a Beltrami County Sheriff's investigator. They reported that they had dropped their daughter off the evening of Dec. 15 at a residence in the 400 block of South Movil Bay Lane Northeast. The girl and her brother had been invited to spend the night with Newell's children.

The girl's father reported that when he picked up his daughter on the morning of Dec. 16, she appeared very disturbed. When he asked her what was wrong, she said after she had gone to bed at the Newell home, Newell had molested her.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct - penetration of a victim younger than 13 by someone more than 36 months older - carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. Any actual sentence is set by state sentencing guidelines.

In the course of the investigation of the sexual assault of the child, investigators obtained a search warrant and seized the computer in the home where the assault had occurred. According to the criminal complaint, a search of the computer's hard drive found hundreds of pornographic images. The hard drive's records showed that many of the pornographic images had been accessed during the evening of Dec. 15 about the time of the sexual assault and near the part of the house where Newell assaulted the girl.

Among the pornographic images on the hard drive was the image of a child engaged in a sexual act. The image was identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as the picture of a real victim of child pornography whose identity was discovered in a criminal investigation conducted by the FBI in Pennsylvania.

Newell was originally charged with felony possession of child pornography. Burg said that case against Newell still is active and on the July trial calendar.

Newell is required to register as a predatory offender because of a 1999 conviction for lewd and lascivious conduct for having non-consensual sex with a woman.

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