MN court: Marriage no defense for man who fathered child with vulnerable adult

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday reinstated criminal charges against a New Ulm man who fathered a child with a vulnerable adult.

Vincent Michael Gosewisch was charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct in July 2017. The woman reportedly functioned at the level of an 8-year-old, and their relationship was sanctioned by the woman’s family.

Gosewisch avoided a trial, however, by marrying the woman and citing a clause in the state law that does not allow criminal charges if both “were adults cohabiting in an ongoing voluntary sexual relationship at the time of the alleged offense, or if the complainant is the actor’s legal spouse, unless the couple is living apart and one of them has filed for legal separation or dissolution of the marriage.”

The district court judge dismissed the charges.

On Monday, a divided Minnesota Court of Appeals said “no sale.”

“It is the public policy of this state to protect vulnerable adults,” Judge Lucinda Jesson wrote. “Extending the statutory exemption to an actor who marries a vulnerable adult before trial could permit oreven encourage an actor to marry in order to avoid culpability for criminal conduct, revictimizing the alleged victim. Here, Gosewisch married G.H. two years after the first alleged offense and only six weeks before the scheduled trial.”

Jesson said an after-the-fact marriage would “allow for re-victimization of a vulnerable adult.”

In his dissent, Judge John Smith acknowledged the law as written could provide a loophole for those accused of these types of crimes but suggested that’s a problem for the Legislature to fix.

The result of the majority’s interpretation of the statute takes away the ability of a vulnerable adult (incompetent person) to have sexual relations prior to marriage without making their sexual partner a criminal even though the couple intends to marry. The statute seemingly intends to prevent the abuse of vulnerable adults; however, interfering with the right of a vulnerable adult to have sexual relations with a partner they intend to marry raises serious constitutional concerns as well as practical concerns. (One example of a practical concern would be when two vulnerable adults not co-habiting have sexual relations.)

The case now goes back to district court.