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Adams asks for dismissal; trial set for March 5

Detroit Lakes School Superintendent Mark Adams will go on trial on felony first- and third-degree assault charges at 9 a.m. Monday, March 5.

Adams, 43, of 14140 East Fox Lake Road, appeared at a pretrial hearing Monday morning in Becker County District Court before Judge Mark Hansen.

The jury trial is expected to last no more than a week, with the first day or two given over to selecting a jury from a pool of 75 potential jurors.

The next two days will be used by the prosecution to present its case; Becker County Attorney Joe Evans said he expects to call 10-12 witnesses.

Defense attorney Peter B. Wold of Minneapolis said he expects to call four or five witnesses -- perhaps more, if the prosecution fails to call some on its list -- including a character witness and several "fact" witnesses who will also serve as character witnesses. He expects the defense to take no longer than a day.

Adams was indicted by a Becker County grand jury Nov. 1 for allegedly assaulting Mark Rothschadl.

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

Wold filed a motion Monday to dismiss the grand jury indictment, and he spoke to that motion Monday at the request of Judge Hansen.

Wold said an investigation by the defense team turned up timeline inaccuracies in grand jury testimony by Matthew Lanoue and Chris Brunner.

"In this case, the state has founded its indictment upon false testimony," Wold wrote in a brief two-page motion. "Due to the errors and irregularities of the grand jury proceedings this court cannot allow Mr. Adams to stand trial and bear the expense and ignominy of that which is not justified."

He argued that there was insufficient evidence to charge Adams with two counts of felony assault; and that the facts stated in the indictment do not constitute an offense.

He also contended that "the state has failed to set forth all of the facts and elements necessary to constitute a valid indictment," and it should therefore be dismissed.

At issue is what time Adams stopped for directions to Rothschadl's farm on the day of the assault incident, which occurred about 4:45 p.m.

Adams told the grand jury he stopped at Lanoue's residence near Ogema later in the afternoon, but Lanoue testified that Adams was there between noon and 12:30 p.m., before he and Brunner went to Fergus Falls to pick up an ATV. He paid for the ATV at Edge Motorsports at 1:51 p.m.

Lanoue told the grand jury he got home between 5 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.

He may have actually got home as early as 4 p.m., based on a Detroit Lakes Kmart receipt printed at 3:31 p.m., when he dropped off Brunner to pick up his vehicle. The Lanoue residence is about 30 minute north of Detroit Lakes.

The assault incident occurred about 4:45 p.m., and Wold charged that the timeline had been intentionally misstated because Lanoue and Brunner are friendly towards Rothschadl and wanted to hurt Adams' credibility with the grand jury.

"It's clear that a major portion of evidence presented before the grand jury last October left out some very important exculpatory evidence," Wold told the judge.

Evans said it was actually a matter of witnesses trying to reconstruct a timeline from memory, and he filed legal documents opposing the motion to dismiss.

Lanoue had been called as a witness to the grand jury "to show that the defendant was untruthful when he testified he was not at the Lanoue farm earlier in the day," Evans wrote in his memorandum opposing the motion to dismiss the indictment. "It was also offered to show the defendant may have pre-planned his later meeting with Mark Rothschadl. The testimony of Chris Brunner was offered to verify the timeline presented by Matt Lanoue."

Their testimony was significant, but they did not intentionally mislead the grand jury, Evans wrote. "At best, the defense has shown that they were mistaken in the exact timing of the events of the day."

The key point, Evans wrote, is whether Adams was at the Lanoue farm "before Matt Lanoue went to Fergus Falls to pick up his ATV, as Lanoue contends, or after Lanoue returned home from Fergus Falls, as the defendant contends."

Testimony, store receipts and Adams cell phone records all show that Adams could have been at the Lanoue residence around noon, Evans argued.

As for the defense's contention that the indictment should be dismissed because "the state has failed to set forth all of the facts and elements necessary to constitute a valid indictment," Evans argued that that is clearly not the case.

"There can be no uncertainty as to the nature of the charges nor to the incident to which the charges refer," he wrote. "The indictment sufficiently apprises defendant of the charges against him and the allegations that he must be prepared to meet. Defendant's motion on this basis should also be denied."

Judge Hansen said he will take the motion under advisement and make a decision within a week.

Adams is on paid administrative leave from his superintendent's job, pending the outcome of the trial.