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NL man OK to withdraw pleas for tampering, crim sex charges

WILLMAR -- Craig Allan Hargreaves, 39, of New London, has been allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas to witness tampering and criminal sexual conduct charges in Kandiyohi County District Court.

In an order issued Tuesday, District Judge David L. Mennis ordered that Hargreaves' motion to withdraw the pleas be granted.

Mennis also ordered that the count would secure trial dates, likely in February, after the attorneys provided schedule feedback to the court.

Mennis denied a motion by prosecutor Connie Crowell seeking a protective order regarding contact between Hargreaves' attorney, Kristi McNeilly, and potential witnesses in the case. The order would have required a law enforcement officer to attend meetings between McNeilly and likely witnesses.

McNeilly, of Woodbury, is facing witness-tampering and terroristic threats charges herself in Ramsey County for allegedly threatening her family members over another case involving a different client.

Hargreaves had pleaded guilty on June 19 to three charges, including first-degree felony charges of witness tampering and criminal sexual conduct and a second-degree charge of criminal sexual conduct.

According to court documents, Hargreaves stated that he had entered the pleas to get out of the county jail, where he alleged he was tied to a chair for 23 hours a day and forced to defecate and urinate on himself in solitary confinement.

An affidavit from county jail officials states that Hargreaves was not tied to a chair at any time. The affidavit does state that he was held in the jail's booking/holding area after June 19, when the witness tampering charges were filed. He allegedly asked at least three fellow jail inmates to harm witnesses in the criminal sexual conduct cases. The move to the holding area was for Hargreaves' own safety, the affidavit states, because the general jail population was hostile toward Hargreaves because of the nature of the charges against him.

On Wednesday, Crowell told the Tribune that the pleas were withdrawn after it was discovered that prior convictions against Hargreaves that were thought to have "decayed" or been eliminated by time had not been eliminated. That changes the presumptive sentence on any new convictions. In the state court system, criminal history points, based on prior convictions, are used to determine the severity of sentencing.

The three criminal sexual conduct cases, with a total of 14 counts, allege that Hargreaves sexually assaulted a 12- to 13-year-old boy in the late 1980s, a 12-year-old boy in 2007 and an 18-year-old man in February and March of this year.

He also faces a felony drug possession charge and gross misdemeanor charges for providing alcohol to a minor.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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