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Grand jury indicts Adams for assault

Detroit Lakes Superintendent Mark Adams was indicted by a Becker County grand jury Wednesday on felony counts of first degree assault and third degree assault against Mark Rothschadl.

The incident occurred Sept. 9 on Rothschadl's farm in rural Ogema.

Rothschadl was not indicted by the grand jury.

The first degree assault charge involves an assault that inflicts "great bodily harm," according to state statute. Maximum punishment is 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Third degree assault involves "substantial bodily harm," and is punishable by a maximum of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The grand jury decided to indict Adams after hearing from nine people -- including Adams and Rothschadl -- over two days of secret proceedings at the Becker County Courthouse.

Adams declined to respond to a message left at his office for comment. His attorney, Paul Thorwaldsen, also declined comment. Rothschadl declined comment through a family member, on the advice of the prosecutor's office.

But several days after the incident, in which Rothschadl was treated for a broken eye socket, he told this newspaper that Adams instigated the ill-fated meeting.

"He called me at our lake place. He said he wanted to finish whatever it was -- I didn't even want to talk to him, he caused quite a bit of trouble in my life," Rothschadl said.

"He came here for a fight. I got a restraining order against him ... he's been having an affair with my wife for two years -- that's what happened. He basically broke up my marriage -- we just got divorced a month ago. He is not a nice guy."

Rothschadl said the first thing Adams said when he got out of his car was, "We're going to finish this right now -- I want to develop a relationship with your kids."

"I said you're not going to develop a relationship with my kids -- you abandoned three kids of your own," Rothschadl said.

The exchange grew heated and Adams hit him, he continued. "He (Adams) got one good sucker punch to the face ... He came here looking for trouble."

Rothschadl said Adams lied about a mutual assault. "I frankly don't know how I could have assaulted him -- there were no mutual injuries -- I'm the one who got hurt ... The only reason you couldn't get hold of me (when a reporter called several days after the incident) is I was stretched out on a hospital bed."

Adams has denied that version of events, and said he went to the farm to try to work out an agreement about the Rothschadl children. He said Rothschadl grew increasingly agitated and attacked him, instigating a fight.

On Friday, Dr. Tom Seaworth, chairman of the school board, said Adams had indeed been hurt in the fight, and that he saw marks on his face afterwards, so it could not have been a matter of Adams simply punching Rothschadl.

"Mark Adams was injured, too. I saw him the next day. Don't believe that one guy walked up and popped the other -- Mark had an injury on his face, too."

Seaworth criticized the grand jury process, saying that only Adams testified on his behalf and the other witnesses were all for the other side.

"The only one who spoke on Mark (Adams') behalf was Mark," he said.

"There is no evidence whatsoever that our superintendent has done anything wrong," Seaworth added. "The other gentleman made it clear he invited him up there. He made flippant comments, the superintendent did not -- I just cannot find evidence that he was the one (that should have been charged).

"I wasn't there. I can't tell you who started it. We'll just have to rely on the court system to do its job and follow it through."

Seaworth said he would have been happy to tell the grand jury about "harassing phone calls we (school board members) received" from Rothschadl family members prior to hiring Adams, and about comments he heard "that they were going to get even with Mark Adams."

Bill Leff, who is related by marriage to Rothschadl, said family members did indeed notify several school board members about the affair, because they wanted that aspect of Adams' character known before he was hired.

Seaworth said he would not be surprised to find Adams vindicated in the end. "You can't force anyone to be interviewed by the grand jury," he said. "There may be information presented to the grand jury I'm not aware of ... (but) there are two sides to this story ... there is no evidence to believe that Mark Adams was the instigator."

If Adams is ultimately found innocent it "is certainly an option" that he remain the Detroit Lakes superintendent, Seaworth said. "I'm certainly supportive of our district employees until someone can give us evidence to the contrary. It doesn't mean you abandon somebody because they've been indicted."

Adams has taken personal time and will be away from work at least until Wednesday, when the school board will meet to discuss his status, Seaworth said.

Rothschadl and Adams brought mutual assault complaints following the incident, but on Sept. 22 County Attorney Joe Evans announced no charges would be filed because each man alleged he was assaulted by the other and there were no independent witnesses.

A week later, the Becker County Sheriff's Office announced that new evidence had come to light, and the investigation was ongoing.

On Oct. 13, Evans announced he would call a grand jury to determine whether charges should be filed.

The grand jury convened Tuesday and called nine people to testify over two days.

The grand jury proceedings were secret and the indictment included no specifics on what happened.

The following people were listed as being called before the grand jury: Mark Rothschadl, Mark Adams, Terri Anderson Rothschadl, Zach Lamblez, Todd Wise, Matthew Lanoue, Chris Brunner, John Sieling and Ron Lanoue.

In the indictment, the county attorney's office checked several boxes listing evidence it planned to present at trial. One said it planned to use "confessions, admissions or statements in the nature of confessions made by the defendant."

Another said it planned to present evidence "obtained as a result of a search, search and seizure, wiretapping or any other form of electronic or mechanical eavesdropping."

Thorwaldsen requested the county attorney's office disclose all information relevant to the case.

Adams appeared Thursday in Becker County District Court before Judge Lisa Borgen. He was released without bail, under standard conditions, including an order that he have no contact with Rothschadl, and that he check in at the jail that same day to have his photo and fingerprints taken and go through the booking process.

He failed to show up at the jail Thursday, and had to be called in Friday from out of town. It was a simple matter of forgetting due to the stress of court and "there was no criminal intent," Sheriff Tim Gordon said.

His next court appearance, an omnibus hearing, is set for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 18 before Becker County District Judge Jack Pearson.