Herald Journal Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 22, 2002

Custer contests probable cause

By Lynda Jensen

The court case of Howard Lake resident Mark Custer moved forward Tuesday in Wright County District Court.

Custer is challenging the probable cause in the case, according to the Wright County attorney's office.

This means a judge will look at the evidence gathered by the state to determine if there is enough to move forward, Mark Erickson of the county attorney's office said. This is a common occurrence, Erickson said.

Bob Paule, Custer's lawyer, declined again to comment at this time. He may comment in the future, Paule said.

The case will move forward, simply because the alleged victim made the claims, Erickson predicted.

However, Erickson noted that the county attorney's office does not take or file first degree sexual conduct charges lightly, Erickson said.

Custer's next court date will be a contested omnibus hearing, Tuesday, May 14 at the Wright County Government Center in Buffalo.

From there, the court process will move to a pretrial hearing, which is when negotiations or plea bargains may take place, if any, Erickson said.

If the case progresses to a trial, a jury will decide Custer's guilt or innocence, Erickson said.

Custer did not have to appear in court Tuesday, because his hearing was continued.

He is accused of first and second degree criminal sexual conduct, involving an underage girl over an extended period of time.

If Custer is found guilty of the offenses, the maximum sentence is 30 years of imprisonment, $40,000 fine or both for the single charge of first degree sexual conduct, and 25 years of imprisonment, $35,000 fine or both for each of the three second degree charges of second degree sexual assault.

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

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