Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lonny Cote - Repeat Sex Offender - Denial

Lonny Cote, a registered sex offender in Oklee, Minn., made his first court appearance Monday in state district court in Red Lake Falls, Minn., on charges of having sexual contact with a young girl in his mother’s home-based child care center in Oklee.

Because Cote, 53, is a registered predatory sex offender with three sexual crime convictions from 2000; he faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted, Red Lake County Attorney Daniel Geller said Tuesday.

Last summer, state social services officials closed Violet Cote’s child care center after the allegations against her son came to light.

Lonny Cote denies the charges and will mount an alibi defense showing he couldn’t have been at his mother’s home when the alleged victim was there, said his defense attorney, Kevin Duffy, Thief River Falls.

Geller charged Cote with three counts of second degree criminal sexual contact with a girl younger than 13, a statutory age limit in state law. She was one of the children in his mother’s home-based child care center.

Second-degree criminal sexual contact does not require sexual penetration, but typically is a charge used when a victim is quite young. The normal maximum sentence for the charge is 25 years in prison.

Duffy said the complaint alleges the sexual contact happened sometime between October of last year and April of this year. Cote was working for a farmer and denies ever going to his mother’s house during business hours, Duffy said, except one time to do an emergency fix on the furnace.

“We are comparing time lines,” Duffy said, and he said they show it is highly unlikely the contact between Cote and the girl could have occurred.

Cote often would visit his mother after business hours when no children were present to have dinner, which was OK under the terms of his probation, Duffy said.

Cote’s mother told the Herald last summer she closed her child care center after having her state license suspended and said her son had never hurt any of the children.

Geller said Cote was not a paid employee of the child care center.

Because of Cote’s criminal history, Geller said he designed the charges to carry a maximum sentence of life in prison

Cote also is fighting charges of probation violation in Norman County and will appear on one of them this morning in Ada, Minn., Duffy said.

Norman County officials allege that a year ago, Cote went to his mother’s home to fix her furnace during business hours when children were there, which violated conditions of his probation on three criminal sexual misconduct charges in 2000 in Norman County.

Norman County officials also allege that Cote failed this week to inform his Norman County probation officer that he had been released on bond in Crookston after his Monday court appearance in Red Lake Falls, Duffy said.

Duffy said Cote claims he went, on an emergency basis, to fix his elderly mother’s furnace a year ago and had no contact with any of the children in her center, Duffy said.

As far as this week’s allegations by Norman County officials of probation violation, Cote has witnesses who saw him call his probation officer this week and leave a message that he had bonded out of jail in Crookston on the Red Lake County charges, Duffy said.

Cote is scheduled to appear next in Red Lake County court Jan. 26.

"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"

.........Sarah Tofte

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