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Man accused of raping West Fargo teen pleads guilty to lesser charge

FARGO - A man initially accused of entering the West Fargo home of a teenage girl he met online and raping her last December pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge after the girl changed her story, attorneys said.

Seth Michael Salsman, 23, of Fargo, was initially charged in Cass County District Court with sexual assault, a Class C felony.

He pleaded guilty Monday to contributing to the deprivation of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.

Salsman received a deferred two-year prison sentence, during which he must serve two years of supervised probation. He was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and follow all treatment recommendations of a sexual assessment.

The victim initially told West Fargo police that a stranger entered the home in the 500 block of Ninth Avenue West through an unlocked front door, went downstairs to her bedroom and sexually assaulted her. Her parents weren't home at the time, and her younger siblings who were home didn't know what had occurred, police said.

Police later said Salsman, identified as a suspect in February, and the victim had met online and communicated via text messages. West Fargo Detective Tim Runcorn told The Forum in June that the victim may not have known what would happen if Salsman came to her home, but it appeared he was invited.

Assistant State's Attorney Reid Brady said there were some "inaccuracies" in the girl's initial statements to police, which she later corrected.

"Given the potential issues, it was a good resolution, we thought," Brady said of the joint sentencing recommendation.

Salsman's attorney, Monte Mertz, said Salsman believed the girl was older than she really was.

Mertz said Salsman cooperated with investigators and took responsibility for his actions. He noted that while Salsman won't have to register as a sex offender, "Seth doesn't have a cakewalk here."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528