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Schmidt acquitted on both sex charges

WILLMAR -- A nine-woman, three-man jury acquitted Paul Reed Schmidt, 35, of Atwater, of two counts of criminal sexual conduct Friday in Kandiyohi County District Court.

The jury returned the verdict around 5:30 p.m. after about two and one-half hours of deliberation. Schmidt was on trial for felony fourth-degree and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct for grabbing the breast and genitals of a 22-year-old Atwater woman. She was a ride along participant with Schmidt, who was on duty as an Atwater police officer, during the Oct. 16, 2007 incident at the police department.

"The jury reached the right decision," said Schmidt's attorney, Julius Nolen. "I'm very happy for Paul and his family."

Schmidt cried and hugged his wife, Amy, and his father, Reed, after the verdict was read. He declined to comment.

Michael Lieberg, the Stearns County assistant county attorney who is prosecuting the case for Kandiyohi County, said he respected the jury's decision, even though he disagreed with it.

The jury received the case around 3 p.m. After about one hour and 15 minutes, the jury returned to the courtroom to review recordings of a phone conversation between Schmidt and the woman and an interview with Schmidt by Det. Brad Redmond of the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's office. It was just 30 minutes after finishing listening to the recordings that notification came that the jury had reached its decision.

During their closing statements, both attorneys argued that the case was about credibility, and which person's story the jurors were to believe. Lieberg argued that both Schmidt and the woman gave the same elements in their versions of the incident. "The elements of the story are all there," he said. "He doesn't remember if he grabbed her crotch or not. The victim said he did."

Nolen stressed that the woman's credibility was suspect, because she lied to investigators in December 2007 when she said that no holds or takedowns were being exchanged between Schmidt and herself on the evening of the incident.

"That is not a minor detail," Nolen said. "This is the crux of the case."

Nolen counted the inconsistencies in the woman's story, that she wasn't clear on when she told her boyfriend and other friend about the incident, that she provided different versions of the story and when Schmidt had grabbed her genital area. The woman also gave the response of "I don't remember" a number of times during her testimony and cross-examination.

"You don't need to add them up," he said. "Just one reasonable doubt is enough. The "I don't remember is reasonable doubt by itself."