North Dakota v. MitchellAnnotate this Case
The State appealed a district court order dismissing without prejudice a charge of gross sexual imposition against Donald Mitchell, arguing the court erred in finding that the testimony submitted was insufficient for a finding of probable cause. At the preliminary hearing, Officer Brian Williams was the only witness. He was not the investigating officer, and before the preliminary hearing, he had not had any contact with Mitchell. The basis for Officer Williams’ testimony was his familiarity with a report prepared by another officer. He testified there was video evidence and that he had been told showed sexual intercourse between Mitchell and the alleged victim. Officer Williams also testified that the alleged victim was under the age of 15 at the time of the incident. The district court concluded that there was not probable cause because the officer did not have first-hand knowledge and he “failed to give any type of an assertive ID.” The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, finding that in a preliminary hearing, the State was not required to prove with absolute certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred, but rather need only produce sufficient evidence to satisfy the court that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty. The Court Found the State presented testimony there was a video obtained from the alleged victim showing Mitchell engaging in sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, and that she was 14 years old at the time. Although the testifying officer had not personally viewed the video, his testimony contained sufficient information to establish probable cause to believe that Mitchell had engaged in a sexual act with a victim less than 15 years old.