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Elderly Okabena man pleads not guilty to sexual assault

JACKSON -- A 90-year-old Okabena man accused of allegedly assaulting an 11-year-old girl in August 2009 made a court appearance Monday, pleading not guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and terroristic threats.

Arnold Fred Hussong, a slight man with a frail appearance, walked slowly into the courtroom Monday morning with his attorney Michael Kircher. While waiting for Judge Linda Titus, Hussong adjusted his hearing aids, causing a high-pitched squeal to fill the courtroom.

When the judge entered, Hussong struggled to his feet, barely reaching a standing position before Titus gave the order to be seated.

During the arraignment, Kircher told the judge his client wanted to plead not guilty at this time.

"We were forwarded a proposal to resolve the matter last Thursday, but today was the first chance I had to talk to my client about it," Kircher stated. "My client is interested in the proposal, but not in a position to make a final decision at the moment."

Kircher asked for a pretrial conference in two weeks time, which he said would give him enough time to confer with Hussong.

"It will give me an opportunity to visit with my client," he explained.

Jackson County Attorney Robert O'Connor asked the judge for a speedy trial, stating he was interested in seeing the case move forward and concerned about the public safety issue.

Kircher anticipated the request for a speedy trial, which would have the proceedings beginning within 60 days, but did say if an agreement could not be reached, an objection might be filed.

When asked how much time would need to be scheduled on the court calendar, O'Connor said he thought the trial could take place in one day.

"I think jury selection will take longer than the trial," Kircher stated. "We need two days."

According to the criminal complaint, authorities in Jackson County had been contacted in August regarding a possible sexual assault. During an interview, the girl said she was gardening with Hussong, and when they went in the house to watch TV, he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to a bed.

During an interview at Child's Voice in Sioux Falls, S.D., the girl said she screamed for help when Hussong took her clothes off, tied her up and touched her.

When authorities went to Hussong's home, they asked if he knew why they were there. Hussong allegedly replied that he did know. He allegedly told the officers he has a very loving nature and shares his love with people. When asked if he had gone too far with the girl, Hussong allegedly admitted, "Absolutely, absolutely."

He allegedly claimed he knew the girl was very young, telling the officers she talked as if she was in about sixth grade.

He was later released from custody on his own recognizance with the condition he have no contact with the victim or any minors.

O'Connor would not comment on the proposal that had been offered, but did say he had met with the victim and her mother, and they were in agreement with the offer. He said he wanted to get a speedy trial because he was concerned about other children in the neighborhood.

"The weather is warming up, and he gardens," O'Connor stated. "There are lots of kids in the area, and they will be out moving around. ... We need a quick resolution to this for public safety."