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Lake Park mayor enters Alford plea on felony charge

Lake Park Mayor Aaron Wittnebel entered an Alford plea on the felony charge of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult in Becker County District Court Monday.

At a contested omnibus hearing held late Monday afternoon, Wittnebel answered “yes” to a question from Judge Jay Carlson, in which he asked whether Wittnebel believed the state had sufficient evidence for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But an Alford plea, as laid out by Judge Carlson at the hearing, means that Wittnebel continues to maintain his innocence of the charge even while acknowledging there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction.

Wittnebel, 32, was accused last August of financially exploiting his sister, a Down's syndrome patient who resides at a nearby assisted living facility. Court documents state Wittnebel, who was his disabled sister’s guardian and conservator of her estate, had failed to pay for more than $6,000 of her care at Divine House in Detroit Lakes, and that about $5,409 of her money was missing.

A pre-sentence investigation was ordered by Judge Carlson, and a sentencing date of April 23 was set.

Both Wittnebel and his attorney, Joseph Irby, declined to comment further following Monday’s proceedings, stating that they would prefer to wait until the matter is settled.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454