Herald Journal Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 15, 2002

Former HL mayor accused of criminal sexual conduct

By Lynda Jensen

Prominent Howard Lake businessman and former mayor Mark John Custer is scheduled for court Tuesday, April 16 to answer charges of first and second degree criminal sexual conduct.

Custer is accused of touching a girl, who is now 16, during a 10-year period of time.

As a result, four charges are being leveled against Custer related to the same victim, one first degree charge, and three second degree charges.

One of the second degree charges is related to contact under the age of 13 for the victim, and the other charges are related to when the victim was between 13 and 16 years old, said Mark Erickson of the Wright County Attorney's Office.

The most recent incident was claimed to be last September, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Custer touched and fondled the victim, as well as forced her to do the same to him.

Usually first degree sexual conduct requires penetration, but in this case, there was one alleged occasion when penetration took place with a different body part than the penis, Erickson said. This accounts for the one first degree conduct charge, Erickson said.

An anonymous report was placed Oct. 29, tipping off the alleged abuse. Custer turned himself in and appeared in court Feb. 6 and 14.

A conditional release order was issued, which included the following stipulations:

· he would be excluded from his residence.

· he must have no contact with the victim.

· he must have no unsupervised contact with children under 18, including his own children.

· he must remain a law-abiding citizen.

Custer has a completely clean record otherwise, according to Wright County court records.

During the hearing for his release, it was suggested that Custer sell his video store and tanning business since he is in contact with minors there on a regular basis, Erickson said.

However, this stipulation was not required and Custer didn't have to sell, Erickson said.

Nevertheless, Custer is selling Total Entertainment. There is a sign affixed to the shop that reads "Video store and tanning for sale. Building for sale or lease. Call 543-3243."

Previously, Custer was the last of three generations to own Custer's SuperValu, which is now Gerry's SuperValu.

Custer built the store that stands today. In 1988, the Custer family sold the grocery business after 67 years of family ownership.

Custer's next court appearance is Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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