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Briard's wife charged with felony contempt for ignoring subpoena

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Rather than testify against her husband, the wife of a prominent Frazee hog farmer -- now on trial for criminal sexual conduct -- has apparently gone underground.

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Authorities are asking for the public's help in locating Virginia Juanita Briard, 52, of 38501 County Road 56, Frazee.

An arrest warrant was issued for her Tuesday by District Judge Peter Irvine. She did not immediately return a phone message left at the Briard Hog Farm early this afternoon.

According to court records:

n She has been charged in Becker County District Court with criminal contempt of court, a felony.

n She is married to Robert William Briard, of the same address. He was charged in January of 2007 with first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a girl under the age of 10.

Virginia Briard gave a statement to Becker County sheriff's investigators on Oct. 25, 2006, allegedly saying that her husband made certain admissions to her regarding the accusations against him.

Robert Briard, who is now on trial, challenged the admissibility of that statement in a pretrial hearing, seeking to have it excluded.

But the court ruled that Virginia Briard's testimony is not privileged and therefore admissible at the criminal trial of her husband.

She was first served a subpoena in October, which was received at home by her husband.

When the trial was postponed, she was served a new subpoena at her home Dec. 3, which was received by her son, Ashley Briard, 36, who is believed to live there and be co-operator of the Briard Hog Farm.

Since the court ruled that her testimony is not privileged and therefore admissible at her husband's trial, Virginia Briard has allegedly ignored numerous letters from the Becker County Attorney's Office and willfully thwarted efforts to contact her.

On Monday, she allegedly disobeyed the subpoena by failing to appear as ordered.

Becker County Sheriff's Department Capt. Joe McArthur says the court has denied a prosecution request to delay the trial in order to locate Virginia Briard, and her testimony is considered important to the prosecution.

Anyone with knowledge of her whereabouts is asked to call the sheriff's department at 847-2661.

The trial started Monday with jury selection. Seven jurors were selected out of 12 jurors and two alternates. Jury selection is expected to last through today and perhaps into Wednesday.

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