A Minot man accused of kidnapping and four other felonies made an appearance for his arraignment at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot Thursday.
In addition to the Class A felony charge of kidnapping, John Robert Straight, 42, is accused of four Class C felony charges of two counts of aggravated assault, terrorizing and preventing arrest or discharge of other duties.
Straight's appointed attorney, Marquis Bradshaw, of the Minot and Grand Forks law firm of Rosenquist & Arnason, waived the scheduled preliminary hearing, which is only used to establish probable cause enough to move forward on the charges, on behalf of his client.
Instead, the court moved straight into the arraignment.
With a whispered and raspy voice, Straight pleaded "not guilty" to each count.
Judge Gary Lee noted that Straight was having difficulty speaking and decided to keep the number of questions to a minimum, also noting that Straight was taking sips of water before each time he spoke. Lee suggested Straight may be suffering from laryngitis.
"Throat cancer," Straight said.
In addition to the throat cancer, Bradshaw also divulged that Straight was suffering from head trauma when he brought up an unannouced bond review to remove the no-contact provision against one of the two alleged victims. Bond is currently set at $25,000 cash or corporate surety.
Bradshaw said that the alleged victim was in the courthouse and was willing to testify on behalf of Straight to remove the no-contact order because she was "the only one" who knew the extent of his health problems and was the one who could care for him.
Assistant State's Attorney Nikos Berkowitz, working as prosecutor for the hearing, objected to the impromptu bond review. He said that while he does not often challenge similar things when a defendant is charged with lesser crimes, these alleged crimes were too large to have review hearings unannounced. He also cited the unusual tactic of an alleged victim testifying on behalf of her alleged aggressor.
Lee sustained the objection, adding that he knew the alleged victim and he wouldn't be comfortable, ethically, overseeing her testimony. He advised Bradshaw to try to schedule a review the next day in front of Judge Richard Hagar.
According to two police affidavits filed with the criminal complaint, police responded on Nov. 15 to a car dealership located on East Burdick Expressway in Minot. There, an officer met with an employee who said that a man was beating a woman in the dealership's parking lot.
In the parking lot the officer claimed he saw a man punching a woman repeatedly in the face in a white van. When the man, later allegedly identified as Straight, dragged the woman out of the van the officer noted that the victim "had a bloody face and was yelling at the man to leave her alone."
The two then left the dealership in a purple Chevrolet Cavalier as the victim "continuously yelled for help and Straight was repeatedly threatening to kill her."
The other assault charge comes when an employee of the dealership allegedly tried to use a broom to push Straight off the victim but was then hit on the forearm with the broom handle, causing her arm to swell.
The police later tracked them down on 16th Street Southeast where Straight allegedly continued the beating before attempting to assault the officer, while "uttering a string of profanities," before eventually being placed under arrest.
The primary victim said that Straight had come to her residence earlier that day and demanded to be let in. When he was let in, he allegedly dragged the victim out of the apartment and then began slapping and punching her while repeatedly saying "that he was going to take her out in the country and tie her to (a) tree and leave her to die."