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Woman testifies that Schmidt grabbed, kissed her at police station

WILLMAR -- The 22-year-old Atwater woman accusing Paul Reed Schmidt of criminal sexual conduct took the stand this morning and testified that he grabbed both her breast and her genital area last October at the Atwater Police Department.

Schmidt, 35, of Atwater, is on trial for a felony fourth-degree and a gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges in Kandiyohi County District Court. He is accused of the conduct while he was working as an Atwater police officer.

The woman also testified that Schmidt showed her a pornographic image on the department's computer, that he told her to "show me your tits" twice during the altercation.

During direct questioning, she said Schmidt had her pinned on her back on the floor when he grabbed her breast. "It was not a grope or a squeeze, it was a grab," she said. "There was no sorry, no 'oops', no nothing."

She said he let her get up from the floor and that when she was walking away, he grabbed her, pulled her to him, kissed her and grabbed her genital area.

During cross-examination by Schmidt's attorney, Julius Nolen, the woman admitted that she may not have told law enforcement about the fact that she and Schmidt were practicing therapeutic holds on each other prior to the alleged assault. Therapeutic holds include the actions that officers and caretakers take to restrain individuals to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.

The woman also admitted she gave different stories to the investigator about when Schmidt kissed her.

During opening arguments, Michael Lieberg, the Stearns County assistant county attorney who is serving as a special Kandiyohi County attorney to prosecute the case, told the jury that the case would focus on a "sliver of time" in the lives of the woman and Schmidt.

"It was a choice to violate a friendship," Lieberg said. "This case is going to come down to those one or two minutes ... to the choice to act or not to act."

During his opening argument, Nolen argued that Schmidt had made poor choices, but not that he had committed criminal sexual conduct. "It is a case of bad decisions," he said, of kissing a girl while they were wrestling at the Police Department.

Schmidt informed investigators that he and the woman were practicing the therapeutic holds during the incident, Nolen said. "Paul Schmidt is telling the truth; they were practicing holds."

A jury of four men and nine women was sworn in Wednesday afternoon for the trial.

Presiding District Judge David L. Mennis has indicated to the potential jurors that the trial is expected to take three days. The jury includes one alternate, who will be excused before jury deliberations begin.

Two gross misdemeanor charges were filed against Schmidt on Dec. 27, 2007. According to the complaint, the woman contacted the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office to report a sexual assault. The woman told a detective that she was a ride-along participant with Schmidt, who is a licensed peace officer and was on duty at the time.

During the early morning hours of Oct. 16, Schmidt took her to the Atwater Police Department, where she said they watched video clips on a city computer. The woman said when she got up to move away from Schmidt, he tackled and restrained her. She said he also made a sexual request of her. The allegations also state that Schmidt groped the woman's chest and genitals through her clothing, then pulled her to him and kissed her several times.

According to the complaint, Schmidt told the Sheriff's Office detective in a statement that some "wrestling" took place at the Police Department and that he grabbed the victim's breast "by accident." He did not remember grabbing her genital area.