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Judge gives New London man harsher sentence for 'animalistic' assault

WILLMAR -- Calling his actions "animalistic" and evidence of "how evil a person can act," Judge Jennifer Fischer sentenced Joseph Alan Schleeter to 42 months in prison for a gruesome attack on his girlfriend that included forcing human feces into...

Joseph Schleeter
Joseph Schleeter

WILLMAR - Calling his actions "animalistic" and evidence of "how evil a person can act," Judge Jennifer Fischer sentenced Joseph Alan Schleeter to 42 months in prison for a gruesome attack on his girlfriend that included forcing human feces into her mouth and urinating on her face.

The sentence is an upward departure of the sentencing guidelines.

"We were able to obtain justice for this victim," said Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker.

Last month a jury found Schleeter, 32, of New London guilty of felony charges of assault, domestic assault and terroristic threats for a three-day argument and assault in January 2016 at the victim's New London home.

Schleeter was acquitted of three other felony charges.

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Schleeter had sought to be sentenced on a combined charge of assault and terroristic threats since the incidents were connected. Under sentencing guidelines, Schleeter would've had a stayed 15-month sentence and be put on probation.

A county probation officer testified that Schleeter showed no remorse for his actions, didn't take responsibility for his actions, would not be amenable to treatment and could pose as a danger to the community if put on probation.

Because the jury determined there were aggravating factors in the case that would warrant a more severe sentence, and because the abuse included separate incidents that lasted over a period of time in the victim's own home, the state asked the judge to triple the sentence for the assault charge.

"This is a horrible case," argued Assistant County Attorney Aaron Welch during the sentencing hearing. "It's one of the rare cases where such a sentence is absolutely warranted."

A triple sentence would have been 54 months in prison.

Judge Fischer doubled it.

Baker said he was pleased with the sentence.

"Typically, double departures are the highest sentences we can truly expect to receive when even those substantial reasons to depart exist," said Baker, adding that a triple departure is rarely granted and rarely survives an appeal.

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According to the criminal complaint, Schleeter told the sheriff 's office he had been in a three-day argument with the woman. She had cuts on both hands, bruising on her arms and facial swelling and was taken to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar for treatment.

The woman told investigators Schleeter had threatened to kill and rape her. She said Schleeter got on top of her, kneed her in the side, kicked the side of the head and swung a knife at her.

"During this assault, he urinated on her; he defecated on his hand, took those feces, and shoved them into the mouth of the victim," Baker said in a written statement after the sentence was handed down. "We believed what the defendant did to the victim was cruel and barbaric requiring a harsher sentence."

During the sentencing, Fischer said Schleeter must serve at least 28 month in prison.

He was given credit for 521 days already served.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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