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Man pleads not guilty in alleged BHS assault

The 20-year-old Brainerd man accused of waiting in the girls' locker room for nearly an hour before attacking a Brainerd High School staff member last month pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges filed against him Wednesday, March 27, in a Br...

Jared Allen-Tristen McCormack
Jared Allen-Tristen McCormack

The 20-year-old Brainerd man accused of waiting in the girls' locker room for nearly an hour before attacking a Brainerd High School staff member last month pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges filed against him Wednesday, March 27, in a Brainerd courtroom.

Jared Allen-Tristen McCormack, wearing a Crow Wing County Jail-issued navy blue jumpsuit with his hands shackled at his waist, appeared in front of Judge Erik J. Askegaard in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd for a contested hearing. A contested omnibus hearing is a pretrial hearing allowing the defense to bring forward any issues they may have with the case and deals with the admissibility of evidence, according to state law. A contested hearing then allows the judge to determine whether there is enough evidence for probable cause.

McCormack, a registered sex offender, faces first-degree burglary-assault, attempted kidnapping and attempted fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct through using force-all felonies. The complaint was amended March 21 to add a gross misdemeanor charge of fifth-degree assault, occurring within three years of a previous conviction.

Public Defender Emmett G. Wells, who is representing McCormack, entered a not guilty plea on McCormack's behalf and demanded a speedy trial. The court set a settlement conference date for 9 a.m. April 22, where both parties will meet in an attempt to reach a resolution on the case. If a settlement is not reached, the case could go to trial as early as May.

Wells also addressed McCormack's bond, asking Askegaard for a reduction from $700,000 to $350,000 with no conditions. No bond has been set with conditions. Wells said he had a discussion with the defendant about how important it is he remain law abiding and make all his future court appearances.

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"He has to take care of some things on the outside," Wells said. "He also has a Cass County warrant to take care of. ... He knows he can't get into any more trouble."

As Wells was telling the court how he has been sitting in jail since the incident on Feb. 11, McCormack leaned into him and said he has been in custody "44 days."

Crow Wing County Assistant Attorney Candace Prigge, who is prosecuting the case, responded the victim opposes a bond reduction. She argued McCormack was a registered sex offender when he committed the crime. Prigge said the crime took place in a girls' locker room in a public school, where he waited for nearly an hour before the attack. She also argued unconditional bail is key to keep him in jail for public safety reasons.

Prigge also addressed the Cass County warrant, which would be an arraignment, and said McCormack can take care of it when the Crow Wing County case is complete.

After hearing both sides, Askegaard said he is not changing the bail amount and if the defense wants to ask for a bond study, it could. Wells said he would request one.

McCormack was the last case taken up by the court at the end of the day. Five people were left in the courtroom gallery, including two victim service supporters.

The alleged attack

According to the criminal complaint, the victim, a 36-year-old woman who works at the high school, told Brainerd police she arrived at BHS at 4:40 a.m. Feb. 11 to work out with school equipment. By 6:20 a.m., she had showered, dried her hair and dressed herself when a man came up behind her and placed his arm around her neck and mouth. He said nothing as the victim struggled to get away from him, pulling her backwards or trying to pull her down, the complaint stated. At one point, the suspect allegedly placed both his hands on her mouth.

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Eventually, he ran out of the locker room, at which time she ran out of the exit door on the opposite side into the gymnasium to ask coaches and basketball players to call the police.

Police located McCormack afterward and he denied being at the school. He told police he knew he couldn't be there because he is a sex offender and was told he could not be on school property.

Security video from the school shows McCormack entering the building. He is seen in various locations, then enters the girls' locker room about 5:25 a.m., the complaint stated. The woman is seen entering the locker room at 6:20 a.m., and at 6:43 a.m. exits in a frantic and hurried manner.

Outside of the alleged assault at BHS, McCormack faces two misdemeanor charges of possessing metal knuckles/switchblade and driving after revocation from an incident Jan. 25 and two felony counts of fifth-degree assault from an incident this past November in Brainerd.

McCormack also was convicted of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct Nov. 13, 2017, in Cass County District Court for having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.

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