Appeals from the District Courts of Golden Valley, Hettinger,
and Stark County, Southwest Judicial District, the Honorable
William A. Herauf, Judge.
Christina M. Wenko (argued) and Olivia L. Krebs (appeared),
Dickinson, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.
McCabe, Dickinson Public Defender Office, Dickinson, ND, for
defendant and appellant.
James Watson appeals after a jury found he was guilty of
continuous sexual abuse of a child in Golden Valley County,
he conditionally pled guilty to sexual assault in Hettinger
County, and he conditionally pled guilty to continuous sexual
abuse of a child in Stark County. Watson argues the district
court erred by granting continuances in all three cases and
violated his statutory speedy trial rights. We conclude the
court did not abuse its discretion by granting the
State's motions for continuances in the Hettinger and
Stark County cases. But Watson's statutory speedy trial
right was violated in the Golden Valley County case because
trial did not begin within 90 days of Watson's speedy
trial election and the district court did not find good cause
for the delay. We affirm the Hettinger and Stark County
judgments and reverse the Golden Valley County judgment and
This case involves consolidated appeals from district court
cases in Hettinger County, Stark County, and Golden Valley
County. Although the issues raised on appeal are similar and
the victim and defendant are the same in each case, we
address the facts of each case separately.
Golden Valley County
On June 30, 2017, Watson was charged in Golden Valley County
with one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The
complaint alleged Watson engaged in sexual conduct or sexual
acts on at least a weekly basis with a child under the age of
15 during the fall of 2011 through December 2011.
On October 2, 2017, Watson was arraigned. On October 3, 2017,
Watson filed and electronically served a speedy trial request
under N.D.C.C. §§ 29-01-06 and 29-19-02. A jury
trial was scheduled for December 27, 2017. The trial was
later rescheduled for January 3-5, 2018.
On December 14, 2017, the State moved for a continuance. The
State argued good cause existed for the court to grant a
continuance because the investigation was ongoing, law
enforcement released additional information, and the State
wanted additional time to review the new information and make
Watson an offer. The State also claimed it had a scheduling
conflict because the jury trial was tentatively scheduled for
January 3-5, 2018, and the State's Attorney had a jury
trial scheduled in a different case on January 5, 2018.
Watson objected to the State's motion.
On December 15, 2017, the district court advised the parties
the jury trial was scheduled for January 3-5, 2018 as a
backup trial due to problems with the court's schedule.
The court recommended the State prepare as if the case would
be going to trial on the dates scheduled unless the court
specifically ordered a continuance.
On December 20, 2017, the district court denied the
State's motion for a continuance. The court considered
Watson's right to a speedy trial and whether the State
had shown good cause for a continuance. The court found good
cause did not exist based on the State's request for more
time to investigate. The court found any conflict with
another case scheduled for trial on the same day was not
applicable because the judge also would be involved in that
case if it did not settle, and no conflict would exist if it
did settle. The court denied the State's request.
The trial was not held on January 3-5, 2018. There is no
information in the record about the trial until January 22,
2018, when an amended notice of trial was filed, rescheduling
the jury trial to January 31-February 2, 2018. The trial was
held, and the jury found Watson guilty of continuous sexual
abuse of a child. Watson was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
On June 30, 2017, Watson was charged in Hettinger County with
two counts of gross sexual imposition in violation of
N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03, a class AA felony; and one count
of gross sexual imposition in violation of N.D.C.C. §
12.1-20-03, a class A felony. The complaint alleged Watson
engaged in a sexual act or sexual contact with the victim
when he was between the ages of 48 and 50 and the victim was
between 15 and 18, and he compelled the victim to submit by
force or threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury.
On October 2, 2017, Watson was arraigned and a criminal
information was filed charging him with one count of gross
sexual imposition in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03,
a class AA felony. On October 3, 2017, Watson filed and
electronically served a speedy trial request under N.D.C.C.
§§ 29-01-06 and 29-19-02.
The jury trial was scheduled for December 27, 2017. An
amended notice of trial was later entered, stating the jury
trial would be held on December 27-29, 2017. On December 18,
2017, the State moved for a continuance. The State alleged
good cause existed for the delay because the victim was a
necessary witness and she was unavailable for trial on
December 28-29, 2017.
On December 20, 2017, the district court advised the parties
the State must comply with N.D.C.C. § 29-19-06 for the
court to properly consider whether a continuance should be
granted based upon the unavailability of a witness. The State
filed a supplemental brief in support of its motion. Watson
objected to the State's motion.
On December 22, 2017, the district court granted the
State's motion, finding the State's supplemental
brief supplied the information required by N.D.C.C. §
29-19-06. The court concluded the State had shown good cause
to delay the trial beyond the 90-day requirement based on the
witness's unavailability. The court continued the trial
to January 31-February 2, 2018. An amended notice rescheduled
the trial for February 7-9, 2018.
The parties reached a plea agreement under which the State
amended the gross sexual imposition charge to a sexual
assault charge. On March 13, 2018, an amended criminal
information was entered, charging Watson with one count of
sexual assault in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-07, a
class C felony. Watson entered a conditional Alford
plea of guilty to the amended charge. Watson was sentenced to
five years in prison, with credit for time served. A criminal
judgment was entered.
On June 30, 2017, Watson was charged in Stark County with
continuous sexual abuse of a child in violation of N.D.C.C.
§ 12.1-20-03.1, a class AA felony. The State alleged
Watson engaged in sexual contact or acts on a weekly ...