Sorenson hearing details jury trial

ST. PETER — A pre-trial hearing for a 57-year-old rural New Ulm man facing multiple counts of felony first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a girl under age 16, felony interference with privacy against a minor under age 18 and gross misdemeanor interference with privacy, detailed a pending February jury trial in Nicollet County District Court Jan. 24.

In addition to the criminal sexual conduct cases filed Jan. 1, 2013, Robert J. Sorenson, 61436 County Road 21, New Ulm, faces charges in two other cases filed later. Charges include felony and gross misdemeanor stalking, domestic abuse and felony theft-wrongfully obtaining assistance.

Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer said she thought at least twice the usual number of jurors should be polled for a jury trial.

“We’ll need at least 72 jurors polled, if not more, instead of the (usual) 36,” Zehnder Fischer said.

Defense attorney Thomas K. Hagen of Mankato said there was additional information in police reports that were not in court complaints in the later two cases that have no probative value (evidence sufficiently useful to prove something important in a trial) in the initial case.

Hagen said the additional information including two DVDs with sexual content created by Sorenson should not be allowed to be considered in a jury trial.

The attorneys and Judge Allison Krehbiel met in the judge’s chambers for five minutes before returning to the court room. Krehbiel said she would determine at the trial if the two videos were useful to prove something important at the trial.

Another pre-trial hearing was set for 9:15 a.m., Feb. 15 in Nicollet County District Court. A jury trial has been set for Feb. 16 and 20-23.

Charges in the criminal sexual conduct case date back to Jan. 1, 2013, after the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office received a criminal sexual conduct report regarding sexual abuse of a victim under age 16, and a second victim under age 18, who had significant relationships with Sorenson, and lived with him at the time of all acts referenced in 2013, according to court documents.

During a search of Sorenson’s residence, the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office personnel found multiple video camera recorders, CDs, DVDs, computers and sex toys. Sorenson later admitted to law enforcement that he made a “bad decision” to put a camera in a bathroom. He admitted he wanted to record one of the teen girls taking a bath but deleted the video from the camera after learning she found the video camera.

Sorenson admitted he stopped at a Willmar hotel for about three hours with the other girl, gave her marijuana and a massage, and she gave him a massage.

Last spring, Sorenson was charged with felony and gross misdemeanor stalking and misdemeanor domestic abuse-violating an order for protection (OFP) for allegedly tracking his wife on an OnStar vehicle device after she got a year-long OFP against him.

Court documents showed 479 login and local active entries from Jan. 12 to June 16, 2017, before Sorenson’s wife obtained an OFP.

A Nicollet County fraud investigator received a fraud prevention referral on Sorenson regarding unreported income which would put some or all household members over an income limit for assistance, on June 6, 2017. Sorenson was accused of receiving $4,651.09 in assistance from Nicollet County Social Services.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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