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Minnesota News Roundup: Minnesota mayor charged with raping female acquaintance

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Minnesota News Roundup: Minnesota mayor charged with raping female acquaintance
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

HALSTAD, Minn. - The mayor of Halstad was charged Wednesday with two counts of criminal sexual conduct.

Court documents allege 44-year-old Steve Sortland raped a female acquaintance, the woman was injured and went to the emergency room at the hospital in Ada. Prosecutors say the victim also told investigators that Sortland made a comment about killing her. Bond is set at $75,000 dollars. If convicted, Sortland faces up to 45 years in prison.

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Republicans are casting around for a new candidate after Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced she's not running for re-election in the 6th District -- but that could be the least of the GOP's problems as they gear up for the 2014 elections. Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says the 6th is the most Republican district in the state, with an eight-percent GOP advantage. He says whoever's the Republican nominee there, is more likely to win than Michele Bachmann would have been. But Schier notes the U.S. Senate race is far more problematic at this point, with no well-known candidate yet in the contest to challenge incumbent Democrat Al Franken.

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Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL-St. Paul) is setting up a special committee to look at problems surrounding controlled substances and synthetic drugs. Duluth freshman Erik Simonson will chair the panel. Simonson says as the representative of a district at the center of the debate over synthetic drugs, he's honored to have the opportunity to study the issue. Simonson says synthetic drug abuse and misuse of controlled substances are very real threats to public safety and the public health.

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Automatic budget cuts at the Department of Defense will result in a 20-percent pay cut for some members of the Minnesota National Guard this summer. Captain John Hobot says they've started notifying technicians about upcoming furloughs. He says about 21-hundred full-time military personnel support the Minnesota Guard's activities and of those, one-thousand-118 are technicians subject to the furloughs. He says they'll be required to take one day off unpaid each week for 11 weeks. Hobot says those furloughs are scheduled July 15th through September 30th. U.S. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) says the painful news is an example of why he wants to replace the entire sequester with a mix of new revenues and smarter, targeted budget cuts.

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Because of this year's late arrival of spring, owners of resorts and other seasonal businesses have an additional two weeks -- until June 15th -- to pay their first-half property taxes. Legislation signed into law this session authorizes the extension. To be eligible, owners of commercial seasonal-recreational property must submit an affidavit with their payment stating they meet certain income conditions. For more information, call your county office.

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The first lawsuit under a new Minnesota law eliminating the statute of limitations for children who have been sexually abused was filed yesterday on behalf of a 51-year-old unidentified Twin Cities man. The suit names the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Diocese of Winona and former priest Thomas Adamson as defendants. Adamson was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Winona in 1958, and sexual abuse allegations against him date back to the early 1960's. After several complaints were raised, he was transferred in 1975 to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and he remained active in the priesthood until 1984. Adamson was named in three lawsuits that were settled out of court, and a fourth suit against the Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was decided in favor of the alleged victim. Legislation signed into Minnesota law last week removes the civil statute of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse. Previously, the state required victims to file suit by age 24.

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An October 7th trial date has been set for an Apple Valley man accused of strangling his pregnant wife. 36-year-old Roger Holland is charged with murder in the deaths of 37-year-old Margorie Holland and their unborn child at their townhouse last March. Holland is also accused of trying to cover up the murder to make it look like his wife accidentally fell down the stairs.

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An alleged member of the Native Mob took the stand at his sentencing hearing, testifying he hit a Floodwood woman in the head with a hammer and strangled her before burying her body in the woods -- and did it because he snapped in anger when he found some of his drugs missing. 23-year-old Michael Siewert of Duluth pleaded guilty to intentional second-degree murder in the death of Cristyna Watson in September. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in a separate case in which he shot a man he identified as a friend in the foot. Siewert was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but could be released after 20 if he behaves behind bars.

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Additional progress has been made in corn planting in Minnesota and most other states, after a very slow start caused by late season cold followed by significant rains. USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey says most farmers had a good window of opportunity right before the holiday weekend, with an additional 15 percent of the corn crop planted, bringing the total to 86 percent. That's only 4 points behind the five-year average. But Rippey says some growers are foregoing corn planting to plant their soybeans early. Soybean planting progress is at 44 percent; the five-year average for this time of year is 66 percent.

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Beltrami County authorities and the State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating an arson and burglary at a home on Big Lake. Firefighters found the house fully engulfed in flames Monday afternoon - and discovered evidence that the residence had been burglarized prior to the fire. The home is considered a total loss. Deputies believe the fire was set to cover up the burglary. Witnesses saw a light brown or tan older model sedan with a darker brown driver's door and loud exhaust driving from the area.

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Parkers Prairie astronaut Karen Nyberg is headed to the International Space Station. She and two crewmates launched yesterday (Tue) afternoon for a six-month stay. It will by Nyberg's longest mission, but not her first: She was at the International Space Station in 2008 on a shuttle flight, but only for 14-days. While on the station, the Expedition 36 crew will perform a number of experiments, continue upkeep of the facility and study the effects of long-term space travel on the body.

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