A longtime Renaissance Festival manager and performer has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, accused of raping a freelance photographer on the fairgrounds last fall.
Carr Hagerman, 59, artistic director at the popular annual festival, was charged Tuesday in Scott County District Court and transferred Friday from the Hennepin County jail to the Scott County jail in Shakopee, where he was being held without bail.
In addition to managing several hundred entertainers each season, Hagerman has been a lead performer at the fair for nearly 40 years. He is best known as the Rat Catcher, a character who taunts fair visitors while wearing 17th-century apparel.
Hagerman has denied the assault, saying he'd never even been alone with the accuser. But he said he was aware there were several allegations against him, according to the complaint. And the lawyer for his accuser said that he represents several other women who have made their own accusations against Hagerman.
"We believe there are other people that can come forward," said Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar. "This is a pretty bad alleged abuse of power and physical superiority."
Mid-America Festivals Inc., the Renaissance Festival's management company, placed Hagerman on paid suspension in November after an order of protection was served against him. Bo Beller, Mid-America's director of business and legal affairs, said the company had launched its own investigation into the allegations, which he called "abhorrent."
According to the criminal complaint, Hagerman lured a female photographer to a building called Bad Manor on the Scott County Fairgrounds on a festival weekend in late September, under the pretense of finding a favorable location to take pictures. He led her upstairs to a drum storage room, the charges said, where he became irate when he noticed a pink ribbon on her wrist.
The ribbon had been adopted by a group of women workers at the festival calling themselves the "Order of the Garter" who wanted to ward off sexual harassment from Hagerman and others, her attorney said. The group was an outgrowth of the national #MeToo movement that aims to hold men accountable for sexual harassment and abuse.
Hagerman ripped the pink ribbon off the woman's wrist, court documents say, slammed her head against a wall and called her a "bitch" and "whore." The accuser said in the complaint that Hagerman took "some sort of pill" before forcing her to perform oral sex on him until she vomited.
According to the complaint, he repeatedly beat and raped her while saying things like, "I will do whatever I want with you," and, "You are my piece of meat."
She also accuses him of threatening to kill her and "destroy [her] life" if she reported the assault.
Eventually, the woman said, she blacked out. When she awoke, her underwear and the pink ribbon were missing, authorities said.
She said she sought treatment at an urgent care clinic for a sprained wrist, but lied to medical staffers about how she was injured. Medical records confirm that her wrist was placed in a splint.
More than a month later, she made the rape accusation to authorities. Investigators met with her in early November at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where she was initially reluctant to identify her attacker.
Hagerman has been a staple at the festival since he was 16. His Rat Catcher character, dressed in rags, lobbed insults at guests in a Cockney accent.
He spoke with police Nov. 29, saying that he knew the woman through work but never had sex with her. His attorney, Piper Wold, could not be reached for comment.
Hagerman vehemently denied the accusations when interviewed for Mid-America's investigation, passing a polygraph test, Beller said. His accuser declined several interview requests from Mid-America on the advice of her attorney, Beller said.
A search warrant later executed at Bad Manor turned up little physical evidence. A stain in the corner of the drum room was swabbed for DNA but came back negative, police said.
In March, authorities interviewed a Renaissance Festival employee who said he had seen Hagerman enter the building on a late September weekend with a person he couldn't see. A short time later, the witness said, he heard noises that "sounded like banging coming from inside the drum room," court records said. When the worker knocked on the door to see if everything was OK, Hagerman allegedly replied, "I got this." The worker left.
Another colleague who was with Hagerman's accuser that weekend reported a distinct change in her behavior, saying that she had turned "nervous and withdrawn." The witness told authorities that the woman later talked about the allegation and said Hagerman threatened her and her family, according to the complaint.
Beller said Mid-America officials "take this stuff very seriously," and that he was not aware of any conduct issues raised before at the festival that resulted in a legal proceeding.
John Klassen, a Minneapolis attorney who represents the accuser in the case as well as other female festival employees who have made allegations against Hagerman, described the case as one of the most vicious he's come across in his 25 years of practicing law.
"There has been an ongoing and yearslong issue of sexual harassment there and sexual exploitation of women," Klassen said. "Carr Hagerman has basically been the face and controlling authority over there. It's sad, but not surprising, that here we are today."