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Douglas man strikes plea deal in assault on child over snowball fight

This is a generic picture of a gavel.
This is a generic picture of a gavel.(Source: Associated Press)
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 5:09 PM CST
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MINOT, N.D. – A Douglas man accused of assaulting a nine-year-old boy and knocking him unconscious during an October 2019 encounter over a snowball fight will serve just under a week in jail after striking a plea deal.

State prosecutors had charged 70-year-old Gordon Van Hassel with aggravated assault on a victim who was under 12 years old. On Wednesday, Van Hassel agreed to plead guilty to a B-misdemeanor simple assault charge.

According to the criminal affidavit, the victim told investigators that he and some others were having a snowball fight near a church in Douglas, when Van Hassel, who was walking his dog nearby, was struck by a snowball.

The victim said Van Hassel knocked him to the ground, and repeatedly kicked him and smashed his face into the ground. The affidavit indicates the boy had a hard time walking, and suffered injuries to his head and face.

Investigators said that during questioning, Van Hassel admitted to knocking the boy to the ground, but claimed the group of children was harassing him by throwing rocks and snowballs at him and his dog.

The case was dismissed without prejudice in August 2020 following concerns over how the state handled the case. “Without prejudice” allows the state to re-file, and the state did re-file the case in October 2020.

On Wednesday, courts ordered Van Hassel to serve six days in jail. He will be allowed to serve the six days over a series of weekends.

Van Hassel will also pay restitution at an amount to be determined and must avoid contact with the victim and his father.

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