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Insufficient evidence found on sexual assault claim against Jamestown mayor

A report of the investigation was released by Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen on Wednesday, April 13.

Dwaine Heinrich
Dwaine Heinrich

JAMESTOWN – An investigation of a claim of sexual assault made against Mayor Dwaine Heinrich found insufficient evidence to initiate a criminal prosecution.

The alleged incident at the Office Bar on Jan. 29 was reported to the Jamestown Police Department and turned over to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate the allegation reported as inappropriate touching.

In a report released by Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen on Wednesday, April 13, the accuser, who is referred to as the “Caller,” told Shawn Banet, special agent with the BCI, any touching of her breast was inadvertent and there was no touching for sexual gratification.

A call was made to the Jamestown Police Department on the evening of Jan. 29 from the Office Bar. The call log said, “reports there is a male that touched her in appropriately.” The call was classified as “disorderly conduct” for the type of activity on the call log.

Valley News Live reported Jan. 30 that it received a tip on its whistleblower hotline of a woman claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Heinrich at a local bar in Jamestown on Jan. 29. Valley News Live reported that the accuser said Heinrich “shoved” her in the chest twice while trying to give her his business card, and when she wouldn’t take it, she said he tried to put the card in her front coat pocket and touched her breast.

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“Caller acknowledged Heinrich was just trying to keep the card from falling out of Caller’s pocket,” the report released by Fremgen states.

The report states the facts do not constitute sexual assault, which requires sexual contact, a phrase defined by North Dakota Century Code 12.1-20-02(5). To constitute sexual contact, touching must be done to arouse or satisfy sexual or aggressive desires, the report states.

“There is no evidence that any touching was for either of those purposes,” the report states.

Banet interviewed Heinrich and the Caller again and also interviewed the bartender, Heinrich’s friend and the caller’s associate, Jessica Willman. The report states Heinrich’s friend as Brown and the bartender as Remillong.

The report states the Caller called the Stutsman County Communications Center on Jan. 29 and reported the mayor “being pretty belligerent, poking me in the chest, and touching my breast.” The report states Willman claimed Heinrich pushed the Caller.

The bartender said Willman was the first to make an accusation against the mayor by saying, “He touched you. That’s assault,” the report states.

The report states the Caller echoed Willman’s sentiment when she reported to Banet, “Nobody has the right to touch anyone.”

The report states surveillance video from three different cameras was given to Banet, but the video is not clear or conclusive and the resolution is low.

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“Caller and Heinrich are facing each other and the angles don’t allow the viewer to see what is happening between them,” the report states. “ … I did not see anything in the surveillance video that corroborates Caller’s claim Caller was touched on the breast or Willman’s claim that Heinrich pushed Caller.”

The Caller wore the same clothes to the interview with Banet that she had on during the Jan. 29 incident. Banet’s photographs show the Caller wearing light work boots or hiking boots, blue work jeans with spots of pigment on the knees and quadriceps area, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a ScentBlocker Dream Season Silent Shell jacket with a camouflage pattern and a baseball cap, the report states.

“Caller’s gender is not apparent from the photographs,” the report states.

The report states the hunting jacket had a pocket on the right side and the zipper for the pocket was oriented vertically.

The Caller told Banet the mayor put the card in her jacket pocket and “grabbed” her breast, the report states. The report states the caller clarified Heinrich did not mean to touch the Caller’s breast and was just trying to keep the card from falling out of her pocket.

“Caller told Banet that Caller believed Heinrich did not know Caller is female,” the report states.

Heinrich said in an earlier story in The Jamestown Sun that he did not know if the person was a man or a woman.

The Caller told Banet she approached Heinrich to ask why housing taxes were so high and suggested to the mayor that he was collecting petition signatures from people who were drunk, claiming that it was illegal.

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Heinrich denied the claim he was collecting signatures from intoxicated people and said he only asked his friend who he was visiting.

Heinrich told Banet he folded his business card in half and tried to give it to the Caller, who he assumed was a man, the report states. The Caller refused the business card, and Heinrich tried to put the card in the Caller’s zipper jacket pocket, the report states.

'Plotting going on'

Heinrich, who has been the mayor since 2018, said the report does not address him being targeted for retaliation. He said there is clear evidence that he was targeted.

“As I said, early on, this is larger than me,” he said. “This has to do with our City Council, our City Council members and other elected people around the state. We cannot allow a situation like this where a mayor or any other elected official are targeted in this fashion for retaliation.”

Heinrich said in a mayor’s report at a City Council meeting in February that he was “verbally accosted” and the incident was “staged” by an individual for retaliation or reprisal for an earlier action taken by the council. He did not say what action the City Council took that was being retaliated against.

Luke Heck, an attorney at Vogel Law Firm who represented Heinrich, said the evidence reflects or has a strong correlation that the mayor was targeted.

“The surveillance videos reflect that there is discussion occurring and directed toward the mayor’s area where he was sitting at the bar at that point,” he said. “That seemed to me even to point to some plotting going on.”

Heinrich said the report stating there is insufficient evidence to warrant a criminal prosecution is conflicting with the rest of the report because the rest of it “spells out why there was nothing.”

“You can’t go out in 19 paragraphs and tell why there was no evidence and then … come to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence,” he said. “Insufficient evidence and no evidence are not the same thing.”

Heck said insufficient evidence versus no evidence aren’t necessarily the same thing verbiage wise.

“In practice here it’s saying the same thing in a different way,” he said. “It is our perspective that there was no evidence to support it at all because there wasn’t from our perspective.”

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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