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Published February 04, 2011, 07:50 PM

Man Convicted of Molestation Pulls Gun in Adams County, ND, Courtroom

A man pulled a gun in a southwestern North Dakota courtroom Friday, minutes after a jury convicted him of two felonies for allegedly molesting a young girl, a county prosecutor said.

By: Associated Press,

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A man pulled a gun in a southwestern North Dakota courtroom Friday, minutes after a jury convicted him of two felonies for allegedly molesting a young girl, a county prosecutor said.

Vicente Chacano pointed the pistol at Jonathan Byers, an assistant attorney general who had prosecuted him for gross sexual imposition, said Aaron Roseland, the Adams County state's attorney. He said Chacano was "a few feet away" from Byers.

Byers slammed Chacano against the wall and disarmed him, said Roseland and Liz Brocker, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Adams County Sheriff Eugene Molbert and a deputy, Travis Collins, helped to subdue Chacano.

No shots were fired and no injuries were reported, Brocker said. She said Byers was unavailable for comment.

"Everything happened in the blur of a few seconds," Roseland said.

Chacano had been free on bond while the charges were pending, and Roseland said he knew of no indication Chacano would become violent.

Chacano's trial began Tuesday and ended at mid-afternoon Friday. Roseland said the presiding judge, Southwest District Judge Zane Anderson, had dismissed the jury, and some jurors had already left the courtroom when the incident happened. The Adams County courthouse in Hettinger went into lockdown, Roseland said.

Molbert and Collins did not immediately respond to a telephone message left for comment. Anderson and Chacano's lawyer, Richard Edinger of Fargo, did not respond immediately to telephone and e-mail messages.

Stenehjem, in a statement, said Byers had "displayed exceptional composure in a crisis situation."

Chacano was charged in January 2010 with three counts of gross sexual imposition, according to court records. Chacano was convicted of two of the crimes, both of which carry a potential punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Roseland said.

Chacano was accused of molesting a single victim who was younger than 15, Brocker said.

Court records show five previous charges of gross sexual imposition against Chacano. They were filed in September 2008 and dismissed in January 2009.

Roseland has been Adams County state's attorney for less than two years. He said Byers, who is experienced in prosecuting sex crimes, had been asked to handle the case.

"It was done by the AG's office, without really much assistance from me," Roseland said.

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