Man pleads not guilty to sexual assault

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— A 23-year-old Steamboat Springs man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

The plea came at the conclusion of a nearly three-hour preliminary hearing in Routt County Court. Public defender Sheryl Uhlmann entered the not guilty plea on behalf of her client after Judge James Garrecht determined there was enough probable cause to move the case forward.

An interpreter speaking Fulani was used during Wednesday's hearing because the accused man, who is from the West African nation of Mauritania, does not speak English.

During the hearing, the alleged victim, who is now 16, told the court she met the man several days before the alleged April 5 assault took place.

The teen said she gave the man her telephone number and planned to meet him for a date.

She also said she willingly got into the man's car, drove with him to a fast-food restaurant and other stores and went to his apartment.

The young woman went on to testify that she voluntarily removed her clothing and kissed and touched the man.

She also said she was prepared to have sex with him until she thought she saw him nod yes after she asked him whether he was HIV positive.

The young woman told the court the man had a condom, which she thought he was going to use. She said he didn't use it.

The teen testified that they already had begun to have sex before she told him she didn't want to.

She said the man then held her down and ignored her pleas.

During Uhlmann's questioning of the young woman, she said the man did not hold down her arms during the alleged assault, that he never struck or threatened her, that she didn't call police immediately after the incident and that medical professionals did not find any evidence of vaginal tearing or signs of a struggle.

The man also was checked out at the hospital for signs of struggle or injury.

Medical records indicate there were none.

The man was arrested later that day. Through a friend, he told a police officer, "I didn't force her."

Garrecht scheduled a five-day trial to begin Nov. 27.

Garrecht also decided not to lower the man's $50,000 bond because he is not a U.S. citizen and could be deported to Mauritania when his work permit expires in October.

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