Charge dismissed against Minot’s Pittenger

A Class A misdemeanor charge of violation of a disorderly conduct restraining order was dismissed this week against Alexander Justin Pittenger, 23, of Minot, court records show.

Pittenger had been accused of contacting an 18-year-old woman on Snapchat and visiting with her on Oct. 23, 2017 in violation of the restraining order. According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the woman had told police she decided to give Pittenger another chance because they have a child together. The woman had claimed Pittenger got angry and struck her, but she had no visible injuries. Pittenger’s parents had told police that the young woman knocked on the door and didn’t come in and Pittenger was not in the residence at the time. A previous story in The Minot Daily News mistakenly said that she and Pittenger had arranged to meet at her residence. Pittenger had been scheduled to go to trial today on the new charge of violating the disorderly restraining order, but Judge Stacy Louser signed an order of dismissal Wednesday. The state asked for the charge to be dismissed because of a lack of evidence and “in the interest of judicial economy.”

Pittenger had just gotten out of jail in October 2017 after serving a 300-day sentence for misdemeanor corruption of a minor. He is appealing that conviction to the state supreme court.

The Supreme Court ordered that case temporarily remanded back to Louser on Monday to “consider a motion regarding the agreement by the parties that a ‘structural error in closing the courtroom during part of the State’s case-in-chief’ “ occurred. The stipulation for remand was filed on April 16, 2016. The Supreme Court ordered the district court to file an updated certificate of record after it has considered the remand.

The Pittenger case was marked by stops and starts from the beginning. Pittenger was originally also charged with Class A felony gross sexual imposition as well as Class A misdemeanor corruption of a minor. He had been accused of having a sexual relationship with a girl when she was 14 and he was 19. He went to trial on those charges in January 2016. The trial stalled while the Ward County State’s Attorney’s Office appealed a ruling by Louser to the state supreme court. Louser had originally ruled that the state hadn’t designated BCI Special Agent Pat Helfrich as an expert witness and his testimony would be unfairly prejudicial to Pittenger’s defense. The supreme court ruled that Louser’s ruling was premature. After hearing his testimony outside the presence of the jury, Louser decided Helfrich could testify that he extracted cell phone records and text messages from the victim’s cell phone.

Pittenger then went to trial again in July 2016 on the misdemeanor corruption of a minor charge as well as a Class A felony gross sexual imposition charge. That case ended in mistrial after Louser decided that a witness had violated her order not to disclose Pittenger’s previous criminal conviction. Pittenger had pleaded guilty to violating a protection order that prevented him from contacting the victim. In January 2017, Louser dismissed the felony GSI charge against Pittenger after the state’s attorney’s office acknowledged it couldn’t prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Pittenger then went to trial again on the misdemeanor charge and was found guilty in February 2017. Pittenger was sentenced in July 2017 to 300 days in jail and two years of supervised probation. He received credit for 187 days already served. The defense said then that it planned to appeal the verdict. Pittenger is required to register as a sex offender.

-Andrea Johnson