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Okabena man enters guilty plea in sexual assault case

JACKSON -- A 90-year-old Okabena man pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree criminal sexual assault, admitting under questioning that he molested an 11-year-old girl last summer.

Arnold Fred Hussong, who will turn 91 in June, entered into a plea agreement that will require him to serve a 90-month sentence. Two-thirds of the 90 months will be in prison, the last third on supervised release.

The agreement also calls for 10 years of supervised release after the incarceration is complete. If the sentence is fulfilled as expected, Hussong will be almost 96 years old when he gets out of prison.

The 90-month sentence is a downward departure from state guidelines. Jackson County Attorney Robert O'Connor told Judge Linda Titus his office had offered the departure in deference to Hussong's age and because he wanted to spare the child from having to testify if the case went to trial.

"The victim and her family are in agreement with the offer," O'Connor added.

Before entering the courtroom, Hussong's public defender, Michael Kircher, asked O'Connor to "speak loudly and slowly" because of his client's age and diminished hearing. Even though O'Connor and Titus both did so, Hussong asked several times that they repeat themselves or questioned what they had just said.

As is standard procedure during a plea hearing, Titus asked several questions regarding Hussong's understanding of the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty. When Titus explained the 30-year maximum sentence for the charge he had pleaded to, Hussong stated, "I don't think I'm going to live to be 100."

He told the judge he was almost 91 years old and was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. When asked if he believed he was competent to make a decision regarding the guilty plea, he responded, "There are times when I question myself."

As Titus explained to Hussong that he would be giving up his right to remain silent in order to plead, he became slightly belligerent.

"I had rights before they arrested me," Hussong stated. "Why wasn't I given that right before I was arrested?"

Titus reminded him that question had come up and been answered during a contested omnibus hearing earlier in the legal process.

In order for the judge to accept Hussong's guilty plea, the facts of the case needed to be established, which was done through questioning by O'Connor.

Hussong admitted the girl had come to his house. He said he didn't know her well, but understood her to be about 11 or 12 years old. Hussong admitted to touching the girl inappropriately, but when asked about the particulars, denied some of the conduct to which he was pleading guilty.

"In a statement to officers, you told them you put your tongue inside her," Kircher said. "It's on the tape recording."

"I took a (DNA) test and it didn't prove anything," Hussong stated. "I feel as if I didn't."

Kircher explained that in order for the plea of first-degree criminal sexual conduct to go forward, the sexual penetration had to be on the record.

"We'll put it this way," Hussong said after a pause. "I couldn't recall, but if I said it, I said it."

He again mentioned the DNA test.

"The DNA test was inconclusive," Kircher reminded his client.

"That what did you take it for?" Hussong demanded.

After being asked once more about the details, Hussong's shoulders slumped.

"I'll say yes," he said after another pause.

"Do you want me to accept your guilty plea?" Titus asked.

"Yes," Hussong stated.

The judge accepted the plea and ordered a pre-sentence investigation and sentencing worksheet be completed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC).

According to Kircher, Hussong's family has requested that part of the DOC process include a psychological examination, which Titus said the court would support if the DOC agent deemed it appropriate.

Sentencing is set for mid-May, and Hussong was given approval to travel out of state to a relative's wedding in Texas before the scheduled court date.