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Charges say photo shoot was bait in Dakota County sex assault case

Eric James Rutherford, 33 (DOB 1/26/81) of Burnsville was charged April 10, 2014 with third-degree felony sexual assault after prosecutors say he lured a woman he contacted on Facebook to his Burnsville home with the promise of a modeling photo shoot and sexually assaulted her while she changed. Photo courtesy of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.

HASTINGS, Minn. -- A Burnsville man lured a woman to a photo shoot with the promise of helping her launch a modeling career and sexually assaulted her, Dakota County prosecutors say.

Eric James Rutherford, 33, was charged April 10 in Dakota County District Court with third-degree sexual assault, a felony.

The incident took place the night of Feb. 22 and into the next day, prosecutors say. According to the charges:

Rutherford contacted the woman on Facebook in mid-February, saying she could become a model if she went to his home to take photos. The woman was wary of the offer, but Rutherford agreed to come to her home in Minneapolis and meet her parents.

After the meeting, she agreed to do a photo shoot. Rutherford sent a “security guard” — later identified as his brother — to her home to pick her up around 9:30 p.m. Feb. 22.

The brother took her to Rutherford’s home in Burnsville. Rutherford tried to get the woman to drink alcohol or eat food. She declined. After taking pictures of her, Rutherford gave her a glass of water.

After drinking it, she “began to feel dizzy and see stars,” the complaint said. The water looked pink or orange in color.

The woman then sent a text message to her father indicating she was uncomfortable with the shoot. She went into a bathroom to change. Rutherford came in without knocking, the complaint said, put his hand in her underwear and penetrated her with his fingers.

The woman told him she’d shoot him with pepper spray him if he didn’t stop. He responded with a threat to hurt her, according to the charges.

She eventually was dropped off at home about 3:30 a.m.

Rutherford’s next court date is set for April 29. He has a prior conviction for gross misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct in Ramsey County from 2013.

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