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Hearing considers factors for harsher sentence for Willmar man accused of sexual assault

Peter Hoagland

WILLMAR - A man whose phone call to police started the investigation that led to criminal sexual conduct charges against longtime Willmar business owner Peter Hoagland, 68, led off the testimony in a hearing held in Kandiyohi County District Court on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old man testified that he attempted suicide three times. He told the court of the anguish he continues to experience after being assaulted multiple times as a teenager by Hoagland.

Hoagland pleaded guilty Oct. 14 to four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, all felonies. All of the charges involved juvenile males he allegedly befriended before sexually assaulting them.

Hoagland could be sentenced to 55 to 59 months in prison on the charges, if the sentencing guidelines in place when the offenses occurred in the mid-to-late 1990s are imposed, according to information presented in court Wednesday.

Prosecutors in the case are seeking a longer sentence, and that was the purpose for Wednesday’s hearing, known as a Blakely hearing. Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorneys Stephen Wentzell and Aaron Welch called witnesses to argue that “aggravating factors’’ existed that would warrant a harsher sentence.

The prosecutors argue that at least eight different aggravating factors existed when the offenses occurred, ranging from the vulnerability of the juvenile victims to the particular cruelty they suffered.

Judge Jennifer Fischer will take Wednesday’s testimony under advisement and is expected to rule prior to sentencing Dec. 21 whether aggravating factors exist.