Briard trial gets underway in Foley
FOLEY -- The trial of Frazee-area hog farmer Robert Briard on a felony charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct began Tuesday at the Benton County Courthouse in Foley, Minn.
After a selection process that lasted through the morning and continued until about mid-afternoon, a panel of 14 jurors -- eight women, six men -- was sworn in by Becker County District Court Judge Peter Irvine. No members of the public were admitted to the courtroom during the jury selection proceedings, due to limited seating availability.
Briard, 62, is accused of inappropriately touching the genital area of a close female relative in a summer 2005 incident at the Briards' lake home. The victim said she was at the home swimming with two of her older male relatives, a brother and a cousin, on the day the alleged incident occurred.
In his opening statement, Becker County Attorney Mike Fritz said the victim just celebrated her 14th birthday a short time ago -- which would have made her about 10 years old at the time the alleged incident occurred.
"This case is about the violation of trust," said Fritz -- the trust a young girl gives to an older relative.
Though the alleged touching took place while the victim was clothed, Fritz said it is considered a criminal act to touch a juvenile's "intimate parts" with sexual intent, whether it is through clothing or not.
Though the alleged incident took place in 2005, the victim did not tell her mother about it until the spring of 2006.
Defense attorney Earl Grey noted in his opening statement that the victim's mother did not report the incident until almost six months after her daughter had told her of it -- after she and her husband had a falling out with the Briards.
"There are two sides to every story," he said.
The trial is expected to resume Wednesday at 9 a.m. The proceedings were moved from Becker to Benton County at the behest of Briard's attorneys, who requested the change of venue in March. Irvine granted the request, and the trial was set to take place this week in Foley.
Briard was acquitted by a Becker County jury on Dec. 17, 2008 on first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges involving a girl under the age of 13. Those incidents allegedly occurred in the 1980s.
His wife Virginia Briard faces six felony counts of contempt of court for allegedly disobeying a subpoena to testify in that trial. Her trial date has not yet been set.