Images from Walmart store video that Fridley police said showed a Columbia Heights man tracking girls then groping one as she stood next to her mother were "key to getting him to plead guilty," according to an Anoka County prosecutor.
Last week Nathan William Charles Jones' case was scheduled to go to jury trial. Instead, he entered a plea of guilty to the crime with which he was charged: second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony.
"A jury would have looked at it and thought it was strange," said Assistant Anoka County Attorney Amy Reed-Hall in an interview two days after the hearing.
Sentencing is set for March 27, 2013. A scheduled psychosexual evaluation will be crucial to determining his sentence, Reed-Hall said.
Under law, penalties for a conviction include as many as 25 years imprisonment plus a conditional-release term, and a fine of as much as $35,000, but state sentencing guidelines call for a probationary period.
Jones' age and the age of the girl at the time of the Dec. 26, 2011 incident elevated the charge to felony level, Reed-Hall said: He was 29 and she was 11.
According to the criminal complaint:
Store surveillance video was obtained and shows a male matching the description given by [the alleged victim] following [the alleged victim] and her sisteer around the store. The male also appears to be watching the girls as they move about, including when they went to a drinking fountain. The male appears to be looking at DVD's while the girls are visible nearby at the fountain. The male continues to watch the girls near the DVD's. Shortly thereafter, the male is seen approaching the girls and making contact with [the alleged victim]. [The alleged victim] clearly reacts to the contact and is then talking to her mother. The male is then seen leaving the store without making any other stops or product purchases. The video is of such a quality that the male is easily seen.
- Dec. 29, 2011: Child Sex Assault at Fridley Wal-Mart Caught on Camera, Police Say
- Dec. 30, 2011: Police Arrest Man in Fridley Wal-Mart Child-groping Case
- Jan. 3, 2012: Prosecutors Charge Columbia Heights Man with Groping Girl at Fridley Wal-Mart
- Jan. 4, 2012: Read Criminal Complaint in Case of Alleged Groping of Girl at Wal-Mart
- Jan. 23, 2013: Man Charged with Groping Girl at Fridley Walmart Pleads Guilty