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Former southeast ND police chief sentenced to life in prison

James G. Watson, 52, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for continuous sexual abuse of a child. Submitted photo

DICKINSON, N.D.—A former LaMoure police chief convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child in multiple counties was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole on Tuesday, July 10.

James Watson faced charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child in both Golden Valley and Stark counties, as well as gross sexual imposition in Hettinger County in southwest North Dakota. Watson's arrest came while he served as the chief of police for the LaMoure Police Department across the state in southeast North Dakota.

The case, which involved multiple agencies and three separate county attorneys, was contentious as Watson maintained his innocence throughout, claiming he never sexually abused the victim.

Watson's attorney, Kevin McCabe, argued that the state failed to present a preponderance of evidence which indicated guilt in his client's case.

Testimony from the victim and the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation detailed multiple instances of forced sexual intercourse Watson had with the victim in exchange for certain privileges.

"It was a very difficult type of case because of the subject matter," Christina M. Wenko, Golden Valley County state's attorney said. "We heard 5 days of difficult testimony and multiple hours of video interviews between the victim and police. The jury made their decision, and our focus is always to do right by the victim."

William "Bill" Herauf, the southwest judicial district judge presiding, ruled Watson's sentences will run concurrent.

Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning explained how North Dakota law defines life with the possibility of parole as being no less than 30 years, minus any time accrued for good behavior, before being eligible for parole.

"In North Dakota, good behavior is accrued at a rate of 8 days per month," Henning said. "So he would spend between 22 and 25 years in prison."

Under the current definition, Watson could go before the parole board in 2041 with good behavior. He would be 75 years old.

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