Fundraiser for offender splits community
MABEL — An upcoming benefit auction and supper for a Mabel man recently found guilty of six counts of criminal sexual conduct has divided the community.
A group of supporters have organized a benefit for 47-year-old Stanley William Bahr to help pay for legal fees for his planned appeal of the court’s decision. However, the idea has disturbed some community members.
On April 8, 2009, Bahr was charged in Fillmore District Court with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, for alleged sexual contact with a girl under age 13.
According to court complaints, the girl’s mother contacted police about the assaults in December 2008 after her daughter confided in her. The girl told police that the assaults occurred in 2005.
Bahr denied the allegations during police interviews and maintained his innocence throughout a trial that ended March 26. The jury found him guilty of all six counts. He's to be sentenced on May 17.
Fliers about the benefit headlined "Come Support Stan Bahr" were posted at some Mabel businesses and an advertisement was published in the Fillmore County Journal. A Facebook page was also created for the benefit, which will be at 5 p.m. Friday at the Mabel American Legion.
The name of the event organizer is not in the advertisements or flier, and a person who was said to be the organizer did not return a call for comment.
Bahr's attorney, Timothy Guth, could not be reached for comment.
Some residents of Mabel, population about 750, have said the benefit is inappropriate and that the community shouldn’t be supporting Bahr, while others believe he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
Jeanne Martin, program manager for victim services in the Dodge, Fillmore and Olmsted County Community Corrections program, said she's never heard of this kind of benefit in the 12 years she's been working in the program.
"We believe all defendants have a right to representation and a good defense, but the jury has found this man guilty," Martin said.
She hasn't worked directly with Bahr's case but said the support the community has shown him could have a "devastating effect on any victim that has gone through the whole process of testifying in court."
Martin is also concerned about the effect the benefit might have on other victims of abuse.
"Sexual abuse is an underreported crime," Martin said. "Only about 20 percent of victims ever report what happened to them."
Jerry Nelson, of Mabel, was at the Mabel American Legion Tuesday evening socializing with a few friends. He said he plans to attend the benefit.
"He’s my neighbor and he’s always been a real nice guy," Nelson said. "I think he’s been wrongly accused. Something is just wrong with this. Everyone I’ve talked to figures he’s innocent."
Both Mike Swenson and Roger Lanswerk have been friends with Bahr for years. Swenson said Bahr once owned the Skyline Supper Club in Spring Grove and that he currently works for a local company that builds bridges.
"He’s never given any indication that he would do something like that," Lanswerk said.
Swenson said he’s known Bahr for about 20 years and said he was "never known to cheat, lie or anything like that."
"A lot of guys will see a nice-looking girl and some will make comments," Swenson said. "Not Stan — he’s pretty much a gentleman. This could destroy a man’s life, and I don’t think he deserves it."
According to court records, Bahr was also convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault in December 2005.