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Hearing for man accused of lewd conduct with a minor postponed as witness unavailable

Richard Walt Harkness | Bannock County Jail
POCATELLO — The preliminary hearing for a man accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl and forcing her to perform a sex act with him has been delayed.
Richard Walt Harkness, 43, is charged with two felonies, first-degree kidnapping and lewd conduct with a minor.
His hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, has been continued as area police search for the victim, who ran away from a care facility in Boise. During the prelim, prosecuting attorney Erin Tognetti informed Thompson that the girl was placed in the facility following Harkness’ arrest but recently went missing.
RELATED | Prosecutor voices concern regarding release of man charged with kidnapping, sex crime with minor
At a preliminary hearing, the judge hears testimony from witnesses and the victim, then decides if probable cause exists justifying a trial.
Harkness, police reports show, came in contact with the victim when she was walking on East Center Street in Pocatello, near the underpass, and offered her a ride home. Once she was in the car, the victim told officers, Harkness drove her to a secluded area near the train tracks in town and demanded she perform a sex act with him.
After, Harkness allegedly gave the girl $40 then drove her home — but dropped her off several blocks from her home. She said that during the drive, Harkness told her he was not being “creepy” but was just “really horny.”
Harkness’ defense attorney, Curtis Smith, did not object to Tognetti’s request to continue the hearing, saying he is “perfectly comfortable” with the continuance. This is the third time a preliminary hearing for this case has been continued.
Thompson asked Tognetti if three weeks would be a sufficient delay in order to locate the victim. Tognetti said she would be concerned if the 15-year-old girl was still missing in three weeks.
A new preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 26. Harkness remains free from jail on his own recognizance.
Though Harkness has been charged with these crimes, it does not necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.
If he is found guilty, Harkness would face up to life in prison.
The post Hearing for man accused of lewd conduct with a minor postponed as witness unavailable appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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