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Judge Lee questions charge in Brent Castleman case

Judge Gary Lee questioned on Thursday one of two misdemeanor charges of violation of a no contact order filed on Tuesday against Brent Allen Castleman, 52, of Minot.

Castleman was convicted by a jury on Tuesday of assaulting a woman in front of a child under the age of six, a Class B felony. He was acquitted of punching a second child in the face.

As he was being escorted from the courtroom on Tuesday evening, Castleman allegedly told a second woman to tell the children in the case that he loves them and the woman. Castleman is barred by court order from having any contact with the woman he allegedly spoke to or with any of the alleged victims in the case.

“That’s the extent of the dangerous activity that took place,” Lee told Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz.

Lee noted that in the past few weeks in unrelated cases, the Ward County State’s Attorney has filed charges alleging Class AA felony gross sexual imposition against a man and within a day or two filed a motion of dismissal for lack of evidence and, on another occasion, allowed another man who had been charged with felony aggravated assault for knocking out someone’s teeth to plead to a misdemeanor.

Lee told Schwarz that a prosecutor must ask himself whether it is worth bringing a charge or whether it is possible to obtain a conviction from a jury panel before deciding to bring charges. It is more difficult for prosecutors to take a case to trial now due to the social distancing requirements required by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schwarz suggested that these issues should not be raised at the hearing as Lee said he was planning to recuse himself, as all of the judges the North Central Judicial District have recused themselves from cases involving Castleman. Cases involving Castleman have been assigned to judges outside the district. The child abuse case was heard by Northeast District Court Judge Michael Hurly.

Lee told Schwarz that there is no evidence that Castleman actually succeeded in passing on the message to the children so one of the charges could not move forward. Schwarz then said the state would have to file an amended charge of Class A misdemeanor “attempted violation of a no contact order.” The other Class A misdemeanor violation of a no contact order was allowed to stand. Castleman said he would request a court-appointed attorney in the case.

Castleman is being held at the Ward County Jail on the Class B felony child abuse conviction. Sentencing in that case will be held at a later date before Hurly.

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