U.S. House hopeful Charles Tuttle says a juvenile court ruling that found he had sexual contact with a young child won't stop him from running for Congress.
The Minot resident who was cited this month in Grand Forks with having political advertising on a public right of way also faced child abuse accusations in Ohio more than 15 years ago as he fought for custody of his children. The Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division in Ohio found the minor was an "abused child as a result of the sexual contact," according to the opinion.
Tuttle said there was not enough evidence to criminally charge him and that the claims were just hearsay. He called the whole process "hurtful" and "ugly" but said the it's the reason he is a strong supporter of shared parenting.
"I know this is going to be coming out," he said. "I'm still not afraid of running because of it."
No criminal charges
Tuttle was not criminally charged for the allegations, but an opinion from the Ohio Court of Appeals lays out details of an incident that happened Sept. 9, 2001.
The child told her mother Tuttle had sexual contact with her, according to the Court of Appeals opinion. Evidence and testimony from medical staff and others was presented during court hearings.
The accusations resulted in Tuttle's ex-wife, Virginia, gaining custody of their children. Tuttle had supervised visits and eventually was allowed unsupervised visits every other weekend.
He fought the Delaware County ruling, telling the Court of Appeals there was not "clear and convincing evidence" for the findings, that the lower court wrongfully allowed hearsay as evidence and the court failed to give him time to "properly subpoena witnesses," according to the upper court's opinion that ruled against him.
The way court systems handle custodial battles is adversarial and about power, Tuttle said, noting his efforts to get Measure 6 on the North Dakota ballot in 2014. The measure would have given equal rights and responsibilities to parents until there was "clear and convincing evidence" suggesting a parent was not fit, but 62 percent of North Dakota voters rejected the bill.
Tuttle claims he has become an expert in custody battles and shared parenting because of his case, adding he doesn't want any parent to go through what he went through.
"Almost 90 percent of all accusations when it comes to custody battles are false," he said. "It's a broken system."
He said he has no problem with explaining his history.
"I know the establishment is going to do everything they can to stop me from running," he said. "If you guys want to drag all of this dirt out, that's fine."
This is the first time Tuttle plans to run for a national office. In the general election, he would face Republican Kelly Armstrong, an attorney and state senator from Dickinson, and Democrat Mac Schneider, a Grand Forks lawyer.
Tuttle previously told the Herald he is a full-blown Republican, but he will have to run as an independent. He hadn't submitted paperwork to appear on the November ballot as of Friday.
He has been cited in Grand Forks and Minot while selling Donald Trump merchandise. He was arrested in October 2016 for placing Trump signs on the boulevard in Minot, but the case was dismissed after he agreed to not do that again in the city.
He faces a similar charge in Grand Forks for selling Trump merchandise on 32nd Avenue. He has pleaded not guilty, and he will have an initial appearance Aug. 30 in Grand Forks District Court.
The most serious criminal charge on Tuttle's record appears to be from a November 2003 assault on his ex-father-in-law, Jack Bauer. Tuttle was returning his children to Bauer, who was picking them up for Tuttle's ex-wife, according to court documents.
Tuttle had bought ice cream cones for the children, but a confrontation broke out and Bauer put the ice cream cones in a bag, court documents said.
Bauer testified that Tuttle hit the ex-father-in-law in the back twice, according to court documents. Tuttle said Bauer hit Tuttle in the head, court documents said.
"At that point, (Tuttle) turned around and pushed the ice cream cone into Bauer's face to get away from him," an opinion from the Ohio Court of Appeals said. "(Tuttle) stated he had no intent of hitting Bauer striking him or using his fist."
Tuttle didn't press charges, though he said he went to the hospital. A Delaware County Municipal Court jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to 180 days in jail with 120 days suspended. He fought the conviction, but the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled against him.
When asked why Bauer pressed charges, Tuttle said his ex-wife wanted him to face criminal charges.
"It's divorce," he said.
Tuttle also was sentenced to pay $100 on a unauthorized use of property charge in Ohio. He was accused of stealing $200 worth in Caribou Coffee gift cards in 2003, but that case was dismissed.