A sentence of not quite five years awaits a 20-year-old man who admitted that he raped a 15-year-old girl in the back of a pickup truck near an east-central Minnesota dam while his two buddies were along for the ride.
Those other two had their cases dismissed in Pine County District Court, where Joshua W. Lanerd, of Cambridge, Minn., will be sentenced on Monday for raping the girl on April 29.
An attorney for Cody E. Pokela, 18, of North Branch, Minn., explained that felony charges of aiding and abetting first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and false imprisonment were dropped against his client and fellow former defendant Daniel W. Soderberg, 24, of Cambridge, because prosecutors could not prove what was in their minds at the time.
“There are certain crimes that require criminal intent,” Mark Benjamin, Pokela’s attorney, said Tuesday, “some evidence of … what someone was thinking. That wasn’t the case of that. There were no such admissions.” No one, “not even the victim” or any witness, could speak of “a common plan” involving either Pokela or Soderberg to attack the girl, Benjamin added.
There was “no discussion on the drive there … and no discussion on the drive back” about what was to happen or what transpired, Benjamin said. “There’s no question in my mind that she was assaulted. There was no information that the two boys [Pokela and Soderberg] saw anything or heard anything or thought there was anything amiss.”
Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson said Tuesday that “there were some factual developments after we charged the case that” led to the dismissals.
“I can also tell you that the dismissals of the co-defendants [as defendants] were approved by the victim and family, as there was no chance of conviction based on what we later discovered,” Frederickson said.
Lanerd pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. In exchange, charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and false imprisonment were dropped. His sentence of four years, nine months will call for him to serve slightly more than three years in prison and the rest on supervised release.
The girl said she had known Lanerd for a few months when she was pulled into the pickup on a Sunday afternoon at a park near Pine City Elementary School, driven to a remote location near the Snake River Dam and raped as Soderberg and Pokela were nearby smoking cigarettes, charges against the three read.
All four drove back to the park, where the girl was freed but not before Lanerd requested gas money from her, the charges continued.