A Grand Forks woman charged in a rare prostitution bust in Grand Forks said Thursday she will plead not guilty to the misdemeanor in state district court in Grand Forks.

The Emerado, N.D., man who police say answered her ad and paid her $100 for sex, also faces a misdemeanor charge for hiring someone for sex.

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Police, looking for her roommate, found Kayla Wright, now 20, and Paul Balstad at America's Best Value Inn, 1000 42nd St. N., on Feb. 17, according to a police complaint.

Other than a 2009 conviction of a Grafton, N.D., woman caught in a police sting at a different motel, no prostitution charges have been made in the county in the memory of anyone in the prosecutor's office, said Grand Forks County State's Attorney Peter Welte.

One East Grand Forks prostitution case was filed in 1988.

Wright and Bolstad were each charged with a Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Wright's bench trial is scheduled Oct. 4. She told the judge she will represent herself during Thursday's court hearing.

Balstad has appeared on his charge and has a pre-trial conference scheduled for Aug. 16.

An interruption

According to the complaint, Wright advertised online about 2 a.m. Feb. 17 at Backpage.com as "Come to CanndyLannd$$$-21."

"What up fella's. This Canndy in Grand Forks looking to have some fun and pleasure you. Looking for serious callers who are in the Grand Forks area and are willing to pay. Wanna hear my rates give a call," she wrote, adding her cellphone number.

Within a few hours, Balstad called and asked Wright about her rates. She said $100 and, about 10 a.m. the same day, he was in room 109 in America's Best Value Inn, 1000 42nd St. N., with Wright, the complaint said.

Her roommate, Uniquea Davis, left the room, and Balstad handed Wright $100. Their sexual encounter quickly ended when Davis returned, pounding on the door "stating the police were there," the complaint said.

Because the encounter "is abruptly interrupted, Ms. Wright returned the $100 to Balstad, who then in turn gave her $30 back," the complaint said.

The complaint did not say why police sought Davis, but said officers perceived something was amiss with Wright and Balstad.

Under police questioning, Wright "admitted to the money for sex encounter," the complaint said.

The phone number Wright posted in her February ad was answered Thursday by a Grand Forks woman who said she only obtained it a week or so ago and has no idea who Wright is.

Told of Wright's case, the woman laughed and said she might have to change her number.

Her own lawyer

On Thursday in state district court, Wright applied for a court-appointed attorney, but state District Judge Deb Kleven pressed her on her assets: "How much cash do you have?"

Demurring for a moment, Wright finally said, "$2,000."

"So you can hire an attorney," Kleven said.

"I don't know," Wright said. "How much do they cost?"

"It depends on who you call," Kleven said.

Wright said she planned to represent herself, waived her right to a jury trial and announced her wish to be tried before a judge. "I'm pleading not guilty."

Call Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1237; or send email to slee@gfherald.com.