Last edited: March 06, 2005

Man Faces Rare Adultery Charge in Fargo

Grand Forks Herald, February 10, 2005

By the Associated Press

FARGO, N.D.óA man is facing trial next month on an adultery charge, something attorneys say is rare in North Dakota.

Prosecutors charged Lucius James Penn, 29, of Las Vegas, with the misdemeanor crime after his wife called Fargo police in August. Deanna Penn told a detective her husband was having an affair with a 16-year-old girl he had met on the Internet, court records say.

Penn also is charged with felony corruption or solicitation of a minor. His trial is set to begin March 1.

Pennís Las Vegas defense attorney, Gabriel Grasso, said Wednesday he will challenge North Dakotaís adultery law on several grounds, including privacy rights. An attorney helping with the case, Brian Nelson of Fargo, said he never heard of a North Dakota prosecutor using the law.

Cass County prosecutors said the felony count is a bigger problem for Penn.

ďUntil the Legislature does away with it (adultery) or until some supreme authority says we canít do it, itís a charging option for every prosecutor,Ē Assistant Stateís Attorney Aaron Birst said.

To file a charge of adultery, state law requires a spouse to file a complaint within one year of the act. The law grants immunity to people who disclose affairs during divorce or separation proceedings.

Part of Pennís defense is that he was working toward a divorce with his wife when he met the girl in Fargo, Grasso said. The split will soon be final, he said.

Grasso said Penn, an Air Force engineer, met the girl online before he was scheduled to spend time at the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

He said the girl told police the relationship was consensual.

The womanís mother, reached Wednesday by The Forum, said she has spoken to Penn but does not know him well.

ďMy daughter seems to like him,Ē she said. ďIím hoping she gets over that.Ē

Morton County Stateís Attorney Allen Koppy said the most recent adultery case cited in state documents is from 1925.

Koppy dealt with the issue in the late 1990s, when a state penitentiary inmate asked that his wife be charged with adultery.

Koppy and his assistants denied the request from Walter S. Olsen III, arguing that his wife was already facing a felony assault charge. Prosecutors also questioned Olsenís motivation and doubted they could win an adultery conviction before a jury, Koppy said.

After a judge denied Olsenís request to hire a private prosecutor, he asked the state Supreme Court to intervene. The justices declined to do so.

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