By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A former Havre probation officer must pay a $250 fine and serve 50 hours of community service after being found guilty of engaging in sexual acts with a woman he was assigned to supervise.
State District Judge David Rice sentenced Edward L. Schmidt on Wednesday after finding him guilty of one count of official misconduct at the end of a one-day nonjury trial. Schmidt also received a six-month deferred sentence. That means he will serve no jail time and the conviction will be erased from his record if he remains law-abiding for six months.
Schmidt, an 11-year veteran of the Havre office of the state Probation and Parole Bureau, resigned in September after he was interviewed by a state investigator about the woman's allegations.
According to the document charging him with official misconduct, Schmidt required the woman to call him excessively, talked to her about sexual matters, and on three occasions masturbated in her presence while touching her.
Much of the closing arguments by the prosecution and the defense centered on DNA evidence in the case.
DNA that matched Schmidt's was found on a sample of the woman's sofa that contained seminal fluid. However, Michelle Griffin, a forensic scientist at the State Crime Lab, acknowledged during her testimony that she could not determine the source of the seminal fluid, and that DNA could have been transferred to the couch by sweat, skin cells, hair, blood or saliva.
Defense attorneys Dan Boucher and Francis McCarvel noted that the alleged victim had testified that during one visit to her home, Schmidt had been sweating profusely after mowing a lawn.
"Ms. Griffin never gave any indication that this semen was from Mr. Schmidt," Boucher said during closing arguments. "She acknowledged that the DNA mixture developed by her could be totally unrelated to the semen. She is unable to tell us whether that semen contained any genetic material at all."
Assistant attorney general Barbara Harris acknowledged the "limitations" of the DNA evidence, but told Rice that when weighed in conjunction with the testimony in the case, it is clear that Schmidt engaged in sexual contact with the woman.
"The evidence you have heard established beyond a reasonable doubt that this sexual contact occurred," she said.
"The defendant chose his victim very well. He knew she had problems with alcohol. He knew she had a criminal record, maybe even offenses for lying to law enforcement, and he knew the chances were that people would not believe her. But he didn't count on all the other evidence in this case."
Rice returned the guilty verdict at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
"It pains the court to enter this judgment. I'm very familiar with your service to this country in the Air Force" and as a probation officer, he told Schmidt.
Rice said he was not convinced by the argument of the defense, which presented no witnesses. He noted that during a Sept. 3 interview with state investigator Ken Thompson, the woman was able to accurately describe Schmidt's underwear and distinguishing physical characteristics. Rice also said he was not convinced that Schmidt's DNA may have been transferred to the couch by sweat.
"There has been no proof of how much he was sweating or if he was wearing shorts or pants," Rice said.
After Rice returned the verdict, McCarvel requested that Schmidt be sentenced immediately. Both Harris and McCarvel recommended lenience. Schmidt did not make a statement.
Said Harris after the trial: "Obviously, I think the judgment that was returned is the correct one. Frankly, I do think the fact that he lost his job is enough punishment."
Schmidt declined to comment.