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Grand Forks man pleads guilty to gross sexual imposition, other charges

The man is accused of physically and sexually assaulting a woman in an apartment complex bathroom in 2021

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GRAND FORKS — Up until the change of plea, Craig Peltier was expected to stand trial Sept. 27. If he had done so, he could have been charged with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The plea agreement proposed by Ashlei Neufeld, representing the state, and Nicholas Thornton, Peltier’s public defender, was explained in court during a change of plea hearing Friday, Sept. 23.

Peltier’s gross sexual imposition charge was amended from gross sexual imposition by compelling the victim to submit by force or threat, to "gross sexual imposition while knowing or having reasonable cause to believe the other person has a mental disease or defect which renders them incapable of understanding the nature of the defendant’s conduct."

With the amendment, there are numerous changes to sentencing possibilities. There will be no mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison; there is no 85% rule, in which Peltier would have to serve 85% of his sentence before becoming eligible to stand before a parole board; there is no eight year requirement of supervised probation.

Peltier waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the amended charge.

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Per the plea agreement’s recommendations on the GSI charge, the state asks Peltier to be sentenced to 20 years in prison, first serving 18; however, the agreement allows the defense to argue for less time if they deem it appropriate. The agreement recommends Peltier have five years of supervised probation after his release and no contact with the victim as a term and condition of parole and probation. Peltier would also register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment while incarcerated, and pay $1,025 in court fees.

The other case’s charges, aggravated assault and terrorizing, remain the same. Both are class C felonies with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines. Per the plea agreement, Peltier pled guilty to both counts. The agreement asks for five years flat time for each charge, but gives the stipulation that the defense “may argue for the downward departure that it believes is appropriate.”

According to police records, early in the morning on Aug. 19, 2021 Peltier made contact with the victim outside her apartment building. Peltier asked if there was a bathroom he could use, and the victim walked with him to the men’s bathroom. Video surveillance shows them walking together and arriving at the bathroom’s entrance at approximately 4:17 a.m. Surveillance then shows the two leaving at approximately 5:43 a.m., with Peltier following behind the victim.

The victim told police Peltier pulled her inside the bathroom and pushed her to the floor. Peltier then proceeded to assault her physically and sexually. She begged Peltier to stop; he did not. The victim said during the assault Peltier strangled her; she was unable to scream and struggled to breathe.

The victim stated after the assault Peltier told her he knew where she lived and if she told anyone what he had done, he would kill her. She told police she was fearful and believed Peltier would follow through with the threat.

The victim was hospitalized for injuries sustained during the assault. Police records state her injuries included several broken ribs, bruising to her neck, breasts, leg, side, back, stomach, face, knees, arm and an abrasion to her right elbow.

When Peltier was interviewed by police Aug. 24, 2021, he stated he did recall hitting the victim, but did not recall threatening her. During the interview, he also denied any sexual acts taking place. A sexual assault kit was obtained from the victim and tested presumptively positive on Sept. 21, 2021.

Peltier’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.

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