By By Dale Wetzel
BISMARCK — A North Dakota police chief and former state district judge has been charged with 52 felonies accusing him of molesting and attempting to rape a girl over the course of about five years, authorities said Friday.
Elgin Police Chief Randall Hoffman, 55, is accused of having sexual contact with the girl beginning in 2005, a criminal complaint said. It alleges Hoffman "engaged in at least 50 sexual acts" with the girl, who is now 17, from August 2008 until this month, then attempted to rape her Wednesday.
Hoffman is charged with a single count each of gross sexual imposition and continuous sexual abuse of a child. The sex abuse charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also faces 50 counts of corruption or solicitation of a minor, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Elgin is a community of about 700 people 90 miles southwest of Bismarck, and Hoffman was its only police officer, prosecutors said. He had been chief since 2005, Mayor Duane Schatz said, and has been on administrative leave since his arrest Wednesday.
Hoffman, who is being held at Mercer County jail in Stanton, appeared by video Friday before South Central District Judge Thomas Schneider in Bismarck and was ordered held on a $500,000 cash bond. His next court appearance is Oct. 11.
During the hearing, Hoffman requested a court-appointed lawyer and said nothing about the allegations against him. He did say that he does not have an alcohol problem, does not do drugs and has family who would be willing to be responsible for him if he were freed on bond.
Hoffman did not respond Friday to messages for him left on the jail's voicemail system.
Jim Vukelic, the Grant County state's attorney, said at the bond hearing that the number of charges against Hoffman were "purposely underestimated" and that there was "strong corroboration" for allegations detailed in a Bureau of Criminal Investigation affidavit in the case. Schneider ordered the document sealed.
Hoffman was a state district judge in Jamestown for almost five years before resigning in April 1999, after a disciplinary complaint accused him of showing disrespect for the court system. Hoffman had criticized another judge's handling of his divorce case.
He was later twice suspended from practicing law and ordered to undergo anger management counseling. Court documents also show he was accused of stalking his former wife.
Hoffman ran unsuccessfully for Stutsman County prosecutor a year after his resignation, and sought election in 2002 to the same judgeship he had left. Earlier that year, he asked Gov. John Hoeven to appoint him to an East Central District judgeship in Fargo, saying in a letter that his previous difficulties were nothing to worry about and he had "high moral character." He did not make a list of finalists for the job.
Hoffman no longer has a license to practice law.
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