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Former Virginia School Board member’s sex assault conviction overturned

Published March 20, 2013, 12:00 AM

Former Virginia School Board member’s sex assault conviction overturned

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned the sexual assault conviction of a former Virginia School Board member. But the court affirmed a previously dismissed solicitation of a child conviction and sent the case back to the trial court to determine how to proceed.

By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune

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Donovan Eric Strong

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned the sexual assault conviction of a former Virginia School Board member. But the court affirmed a previously dismissed solicitation of a child conviction and sent the case back to the trial court to determine how to proceed.

Donovan Eric Strong, 37, of Tower was found guilty by a St. Louis County jury in October 2011 of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and solicitation of a child to engage in sexual conduct. He was acquitted of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The trial court dismissed the solicitation conviction because it arose from the same behavioral incident as the second-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction. The Court of Appeals has now remanded the case back to the trial court to determine how to proceed on the solicitation conviction.

Strong couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The 12-year-old victim said Strong grasped a string bow to pull down her bikini bottom about 1 inch and directed a sexually suggestive and lewd comment to her during a boat outing on Lake Vermilion on July 2, 2011.

Under Minnesota law, if a person engages in “sexual contact” with a complainant more than 36 months younger and younger than 13, the person is guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Sexual contact includes intentional touching with sexual or aggressive intent of the victim’s intimate parts or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts.

The appeals court determined that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to prove that Strong touched the girl within the immediate area of an intimate part, which is defined as a person’s primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttocks or breast and reversed the sexual conduct conviction.

The state attorney general’s office could petition the state Supreme Court for further review before the case is returned to the trial court. Assistant Attorney General James Early, who handled the appeal for the state, was out of the office on Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

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