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Halstad, Minn., mayor charged with criminal sexual conduct

By Wendy Reuer

Forum News Service

ADA, Minn. – The mayor of Halstad appeared here in court today on charges that he forced an acquaintance to have sex with him last week.

Steve Sortland, 44, was charged today in Norman County District Court with felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

According to the criminal complaint, an employee at the Halstad Cenex called the Norman County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday to report a distraught female victim was at the store.

The woman told deputies she wanted to report “something” but was afraid for the safety of her children, court documents said.

The woman said she was at Sortland’s home and they had consensual sex. Sortland later asked her to perform a sex act on him using a toy. Sortland had “never shown an interest in that kind of thing before” and had taken a sleeping pill that day, so the woman refused, the complaint said.

A short time later, the two began having consensual sex again, she said.

Sortland was “pushing” the woman to have anal sex, which she refused, the complaint said. He then forced the woman to have anal sex and slapped her body, she told authorities.

The woman told deputies she did not want to tell anyone out of fear no one would believe her, the complaint said.

At the hospital, doctors found injuries to the woman, including tearing and bleeding, authorities claim in the complaint.

On Sunday, the victim reported Sortland had called her. She said Sortland told her that he didn’t know if he should kill her or take off so no one could find him, court records allege.

Sortland was arrested on Monday following a traffic stop at about 4:35 p.m. Monday in the 100 block of Third Street East in Halstad and taken to the Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston.

At Wednesday’s hearing, bail was set at $75,000.

Sortland has no known criminal history.

Minnesota sentencing guidelines for a conviction on the more serious first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, which alleges forceful or coercive penetration causing injury, calls for between 12 and 30 years in prison, depending on the criminal history of the offender.

Sentencing guidelines for the third-degree charge call for between 4 and 15 years in prison.

A city councilwoman told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead that the council will likely schedule a meeting to discuss the situation.

Forum News Service

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