BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man awaiting trial on charges that he raped a 17-year-old girl in 2004 and harassed her for years is now charged with creating a complicated scheme to rape a woman who said he sexually molested her when she was 8.
Leslie Dean Ernst, 53, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual intercourse without consent, one count of stalking and four counts that allege he harassed people via social media and cellphones, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/1bDYkWy) reported Friday. District Judge Russell Fagg has allowed Ernst to remain free on a $50,000 bond.
Ernst was charged with the 2004 rape and stalking in September 2013. Later that month, a woman who had dated Ernst in the early 1990s and saw the newspaper story called police to report that Ernst had raped her daughter in December 2012, court records said.
The daughter told police Ernst used a fake name to befriend her on Facebook in November 2012, got her to confide that she had been sexually abused as a child and then developed a scheme to help her get back at her molester that ended with Ernst raping the woman.
An investigation found that Ernst created a Facebook account in the name of “Jarod Todd,” said he was 29 and sent the then-28-year-old woman a fake picture. They exchanged cellphone numbers and spoke and texted via phone and via Facebook messaging.
“Todd” asked about the woman’s childhood, and she said she had been molested by her mother’s boyfriend. Todd asked for more details, said he had a friend who was a detective and gathered some information about the molester, including a supposed screen name.
Todd suggested that he could sneak into the defendant’s house and drug him and that the woman could have sex with him and then have DNA to back up a rape report. The woman told Todd she would not go through with the plan, investigators said.
Todd then told her he would forward their conversations about the blackmail to Ernst and she would go to jail for her role in the plot.
The woman “was afraid and believed she would really go to jail for what she had discussed with Todd,” court records said.
Todd told the woman that Ernst said he would not go to the authorities if she had sex with him.
The woman said she went to Ernst’s house and that he told her he would get back at her mother by putting her in jail if she didn’t have sex with him. The two had sex, court records said.
Ernst eventually acknowledged in a text message to the woman that he was using the fake identity “Jarod Todd” to correspond with her, prosecutors said.
Ernst’s attorney, Robert Kelleher Jr., said Ernst denies the charges and added that the facts that prosecutors allege don’t “set forth a case for rape.”
“No reasonable person would respond to these types of comments in that way,” Kelleher told The Associated Press on Friday. Ernst “denies that he was behind any communications like that.”
Four other women reported receiving harassing texts and Facebook messages. Officers were able to trace them to Ernst, court records said.
Ernst’s trial in the initial rape and stalking case is set for Oct. 19. A trial date on the remaining charges has not been set.
In 1996, Ernst was sentenced to prison for making obscene phone calls to Billings women.
Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com
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