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Clearbrook, Minn., man sentenced for sexual assault

A 61-year-old Clearbrook, Minn., man will report to Clearwater County jail next week to serve six months behind bars and 25 years probation after pleading guilty to sexual crimes with a girl, beginning when she was younger than seven.

Rodney Erickson, 61, pleaded guilty in October to second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim under 13, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

State District Judge Donald Aandal sentenced him Feb. 15 to 180 days in jail and 25 years of probation, with a 21-month prison sentence stayed for 25 years.

According to a social worker in Bemidji, claims of similar sexual crimes by Erickson were investigated several times going back to 1998, but never resulted in criminal charges.

Because Erickson is the brother of Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson, the case was prosecuted by the county attorney's office in Bemidji in neighboring Beltrami County.

Clearbrook is about 40 miles northwest of Bemidji.

According to the criminal complaint of probable cause, a Beltrami County social services employee contacted a sheriff's investigator in March 2012 about allegations from a young girl who told her parent that Erickson had sexual contact with her for years.

Because of the conflict of interest with Sheriff Erickson being a relative, the case was handled by Beltrami County officials.

Prior investigations

According to the complaint, Erickson was a friend of the girl's family who babysat her and her siblings. She told investigators that from her earliest memories, Erickson had sexually molested and assaulted her, despite her efforts to avoid him. It didn't stop until her family moved from a residence near Erickson's when she was in the early elementary grades.

She told her parent about the incidents in 2011.

Interviewed by sheriff's investigators from Bemidji last April, Erickson denied the girl's claims. But in October, he pleaded guilty to the charge.

According to the complaint, the social services investigator in Bemidji told sheriff's investigators "she had received reports from Clearwater County regarding claims of similar sexual abuse of children by Erickson in separate cases from 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2008. None of these investigations resulted in prosecutions."

According to state court records, Erickson does not have previous criminal convictions.

Erickson was ordered to report to jail March 15. He also had to register as a predatory offender.

Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson in Bagley said he had nothing to do with the case and emphasized the sentence was not influenced by his being a brother of Rodney Erickson.

"I'm related to probably 75 percent of the people in the county and I don't favor any of them, "Sheriff Erickson said. "He will spend his time in my jail just like any other inmate, with no special privileges."

The previous investigations into allegations of sexual crimes by his brother foundered on lack of evidence, the sheriff said.

Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver, who prosecuted Erickson, said his sentence fits state guidelines for the offense and in light of Erickson having no previous criminal history.

"This person received what anybody in this state under this charge would have gotten," Faver said.