The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 13, 2013

Psychologist argues against child testifying before Hauers

Criminal cases for child abuse go to trial in late October

ST. PETER — A psychologist treating the 9-year-old boy who was permanently removed from the rural North Mankato home of Russell and Mona Hauer, said that having the boy testify in court with the Hauers present would be damaging to the boy and he would likely be so agitated he'd be unable to provide testimony.

"I don't believe he would be able to function (as a witness)," said Twin Cities child psychologist Shawn Bulgatz during a hearing Friday.

The Hauers lost their parental rights for the boy during a civil trial, but both are facing felony charges of child neglect, child endangerment and malicious punishment of a child for allegedly physically abusing and nearly starving the boy. They will have separate trials in late October.

Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer is asking District Court Judge Allison Krehbiel to allow the boy to testify via video camera during the felony trials so he does not have to face the Hauers. During a hearing on that topic Friday, Fischer said the boy should be allowed to testify from another room in the courthouse with the judge and attorneys with him, while the jury and the Hauers watched from the courtroom. Or, Fischer said, the boy could testify before the jury with the Hauers observing from another room.

But Chris Rosengren, attorney for the Hauers, argued that the boy should testify in court with the Hauers present "based on my clients' rights to confront their accuser."

Rosengren said it's critical for the jury to hear directly from him because he never testified during the civil trial with testimony instead coming from social workers and others "who had an agenda."

Rosengren said that while it might be difficult, the boy should be able to handle testifying in court before the Hauers. "He's 9. He's not 5, he's not 3. He's not describing some horrific sexual acts."

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