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Jury acquits Monte man

MADISON -- A Lac qui Parle jury has acquitted a Montevideo business owner of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The jury found Thomas Lauritsen, 59, not guilty on Tuesday, the second day of the trial in District Court in Madison.

The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for an hour and 10 minutes before returning the not guilty verdict, according to attorney Joseph Friedberg of Minneapolis, who represented Lauritsen.

Lauritsen issued a statement on Thursday pointing out that he was found not guilty, and expressing his thanks to the jurors and to friends and family "who always believed in me.''

The charge against Lauritsen was filed in November 2009 after a female -- now age 17 -- made allegations to the Lac qui Parle County Sheriff's Department that she had been sexually molested by him several years or more earlier.

Mark Gruenes, who prosecuted the case for Lac qui Parle County, said the case was a difficult one to bring forward. A great deal of time had passed since the alleged acts occurred, and there was not a lot of corroborating evidence to bring forward, he said.

There were no other persons alleging similar behavior by Lauritsen, he said.

The person who had brought the allegations testified at the trial.

The defense called five women to testify. Each had regular contact with Lauritsen as young girls and all testified that he had always been a perfect gentleman around them, respected their privacy and never did anything untoward to them, according to Friedberg.

Lauritsen has a not guilty verdict but his "reputation is forever besmirched,'' Friedberg said. "You never get your reputation back.''

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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