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Atwater cop makes first appearance on criminal sex charges

WILLMAR -- The Atwater police officer accused of groping the body and genitals of a female ride-along participant made his first appearance Thursday in Kandiyohi County District Court.

WILLMAR -- The Atwater police officer accused of groping the body and genitals of a female ride-along participant made his first appearance Thursday in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Paul Reed Schmidt, 34, of Atwater, was released on his personal recognizance with the condition that he have no contact with the alleged victim.

His next court appearance is March 6 before District Judge David L. Mennis.

During the hearing, Schmidt answered the judge's questions with one-word answers. No plea is entered at this point in the process.

Schmidt is represented by Julius Nolen, who is a former Hennepin County attorney.

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Michael J. Lieberg, the Stearns County assistant county attorney serving as a special Kandiyohi County attorney on the case, made no bail request and asked only that Schmidt be ordered to have no contact with the woman.

Two gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges were filed against Schmidt on Dec. 27. According to the complaint, the woman contacted the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office to report a sexual assault. The woman told a detective that she was a ride-along participant with Schmidt, who is a licensed peace officer and was on duty at the time.

During the ride-along, in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, Schmidt took her to the Atwater Police Department. They watched video clips on a city computer. The woman said when she got up to move away from Schmidt, he tackled and restrained her and made a sexual request of her.

The allegations also state that Schmidt groped the woman's chest and genitals through her clothing, then pulled her to him and kissed her several times.

According to the complaint, Paul Schmidt told the detective in a statement that some "wrestling" took place at the Police Department and that he grabbed the victim's breast "by accident." He did not remember grabbing her genital area.

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