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Northern Minnesota city councilor found guilty of groping assault in bar

Kevin R. Scaia. Submitted photo

HIBBING, Minn. — The Chisholm city councilor accused of groping a woman in a downtown Chisholm bar last September is guilty, according to six-man jury.

The trial of Kevin R. Scaia, 51, in Sixth District Court in Hibbing concluded around 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, — roughly 20 minutes after the jury went into deliberations.

The jury found Scaia guilty of gross misdemeanor count of fifth degree criminal sexual conduct. In the case, Scaia was accused of grabbing a woman's breast in a sexual or aggressive way onor around Sept. 6 or 7, 2017, at the T&T Dom bar in Chisholm.

Scaia and his Attorney Chad Sterle declined to comment following the trial.

Prosecutor Kristen Swanson commended those who stepped forward in this case.

"I'm proud of the bravery shown by the victim and other witnesses who came forward to testify in court about their experience at the T&T Dom bar on Sept. 6 and 7, 2017," she said. "These are difficult cases and the work done by the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and witnesses demonstrated that by the verdict."

Scaia is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 13.

Elected into office in November 2014, Scaia is a first-term city councilor and has represented the council on other boards. He is also currently running to be re-elected to his council seat for another four-year term. His name will be on the Aug. 14 primary ballot.

The trial got underway Tuesday and continued Wednesday morning with the prosecution calling St. Louis County Sheriff Investigator Mark Steel to the stand. He testified for about 1.5 hours before the state rested its case.

Three surveillance camera videos of the incident from different angles in the bar and recordings of portions of Steel's interview with both Scaia and his accuser were played for the jury.

In his recorded interview with Steel, Scaia said he and the victim smoked together and "hugged" that night, but wavered on who initiated "the playful hug" and said he didn't know where in the bar it occured.

On Wednesday, Scaia stated on record and outside of the jury's presence that he would not testify. The defense did not call any witnesses.

In closing arguments, Sterle argued that the case was incomplete and law enforcement on the case was incompetent. He also contended that the Chisholm police officers aware of the case early on were targeting Scaia because he's a city councilor, their superior.

On Tuesday, Scaia's accuser, her mother, her friend Jessica Jones and T&T Dom Owner/Bartender Terry Alsaker testified.

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