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Willmar man seeks change of venue in sex case

WILLMAR -- A Willmar man who is accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old boy more than seven years ago is seeking a change of venue away from Kandiyohi County.

Orlando Manuel Bobadilla, 30, appeared Tuesday in Kandiyohi County District Court. His attorney, Lynne Torgerson, argued that media coverage of the years of state and federal appeals court decisions in Bobadilla's case leave a prejudiced jury pool in the county.

Torgerson called the coverage of the case by the Tribune "extensive and highly prejudicial" and argued that her client had met the burden required by state law for a change of venue.

Conversely, prosecutor Connie Crowell of the Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office argued that the news coverage, 10 news articles and one letter to the editor over a period of more than seven years, would not unduly prejudice the jury pool. "Kandiyohi County is where the crime occurred, it is where it should be tried," she said.

District Judge Gerald Seibel took the change of venue motion under consideration. Bobadilla's next court hearing is Jan. 6 in Stevens County, where Seibel is chambered.

Bobadilla faces one first- and one second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge for allegedly assaulting the child in May 2003. He was originally convicted in 2003 of first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in October 2003.

His conviction was overturned by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2004, but was later upheld by the state Supreme Court in a February 2006 decision.

In July 2008, a United States District Court judge granted Bobadilla's petition for writ of habeas corpus and vacated his conviction. In the latest court action, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to hear the case this January.

The legal action in the case is part of the court system's wrangling with the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Crawford v. Washington, which addresses a defendant's right to directly cross-examine witnesses.

Part of the evidence introduced by the prosecution during the Bobadilla trial was a videotaped interview of the child by a county social worker, plus testimony from the child's mother and the social worker about the child's statements about the sexual assault. The child never testified in open court.

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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