On Friday, Michael Charles Cowell, 39, of Madelia was acquitted of 3rd deg. criminal sex conduct, 1st deg. burglary, kidnapping, 2nd deg. assault with a dangerous weapon, and domestic assault, all felony charges. The jury convicted Cowell of intentional false imprisonment, also a felony. A second count of 2nd deg. assault with a dangerous weapon was dismissed. All counts regard events that took place on or around June 9th.
The investigation was described as a "she said, he said" case by Watonwan County Attorney, Steve Linde. There is no physical evidence of the rape, testified by Sgt. Barry Gulden as a common experience when investigating sexual assault cases because of delayed reporting.
During closing arguments, Linde said, when confronted with the victim's account of the rape, Cowell's statement included ongoing deflection on the victim with comments like, "Oh, I see what she's doing there," "If I raped her, why she come back to me?" and, "She's the dumb one here," before terminating the interview. Cowell also declared he hadn't been at any church. Then on the stand he admitted having intercourse with the victim at the church. Linde described this behavior of somebody who is guilty and not credible.
"[The victim] has been a consistent reporter," said Linde in comparison to Cowell. "She testified and [witness] confirmed on the stand that she told him that the defendant raped her earlier that night at Salem Lutheran Church," said Linde. "She also testified that she told the police about it as well."
Another piece Linde described to be significant was when she testified when Cowell and she went to [the witness'] house, they were knocking on the door, she heard dogs barking. The witness testified hearing the dogs barking, too. According to Linde, it indicates consistency and credibility.
Linde also stated the details of the case are too unique and specific to be made up, specifically the dangerous weapon used during the kidnapping, a small sword.
"That's a really odd weapon if you're just coming up with some lie you want to tell," said Linde about the victim's statement. "You would say he assaulted me with a gun or a knife or a baseball bat. A sword is a reach."
During closing arguments, Public Defender Andrew John Hoaglund described Cowell's three-year relationship with the victim "distorted by meth and emotions," inflamed by "reasoning and passions," and "methed-out."
In Cowell's defense, the morning him and the victim passed the church, they decided to stop to have intercourse, a taboo situation that was "spontaneous" and "exhilarating," before continuing on to the witness' home.
Hoaglund states on June 20th the physical incident between Cowell and the victim was noticeable and caught the attention of the victim's parents.
"This drugged up and embarrassing lifestyle is now in the spotlight," said Hoaglund. "And what loomed was a choice. She could either choose her family or she could choose this on again off again boyfriend that's causing her problems."
Hoaglund stated only on June 24th did the victim tell police she was raped. "Must have slipped her mind."
The victim could not recall details including whether Cowell had threatened her or used a weapon.
The statement of probable cause provided by the Watonwan County Sheriff's Office discloses the following:
On June 20, 2019, Victim 1 was involved in an incident with Cowell. Victim 1 gave a statement on June 21, 2019, about the incidents occurring June 18-20, 2019, and also described events concurring on or about June 9, 2019. Law enforcement learned the following:
Early in the morning on June 9, Cowell and Victim 1 were near a church. Cowell sexually assaulted Victim 1 on the church grounds by having forcible sexual intercourse with her against her will. Cowell then took Victim 1, who was nude, to the nearby residence of [a male friend]. That was around 4 a.m. The male friend stated he heard his dogs barking but was sleeping and in a daze and didn’t answer the door.
Cowell then took Victim 1 to Victim 1’s house. Victim 1 was on a couch in the garage and Cowell would not let her enter the resident. Eventually, Victim 1 told Cowell she wanted to get a cigarette in the house, and he let her go inside. Once she got inside, she loudly told Cowell to leave. In doing so, Victim 1 woke up her adult son. Because Cowell isn’t welcomed at the residence, Victim 1’s son continued yelling at Cowell to leave. Cowell then entered the residence and grabbed a cell phone that was not his and walked into the garage. Victim 1’s son followed Cowell into the garage and told him it was his phone. Cowell handed the phone back and, in doing so, dropped a pipe used to smoke methamphetamine and fled from the residence.
Later in the day on June 9, Cowell and Victim 1 were again at [their male friend’s] residence. [The male friend], Cowell, and Victim 1, and a forth party were prepared to leave to Mankato when Cowell took Victim 1 to the [male friend’s] detached garage. Cowell screwed or nailed shut the door and would not allow Victim 1 to leave. He held a small sword or bayonet to Victim 1’s throat. [The male friend] eventually went back to the garage to see what was going on and heard Victim 1 yelling at Cowell to leave her alone. [The male friend] told Cowell to open the door, but Cowell refused. [The male friend] took a sledgehammer and smashed open the door. When Victim 1 exited, she looked scared, and Cowell was angry. [The male friend] observed the small sword, and Cowell took it with him from the property.
Cowell gave a statement under Miranda. He admitted to preventing Victim 1 from leaving the male friend’s garage because he wanted to “talk in privacy.” He said they were in there for five minutes and that he let her out. He denied having a sword. He denied entering Victim 1’s house earlier in the morning.
Cowell has convictions for Terroristic Threats in Blue Earth County in 2013 and Domestic Assault in Brown County in 2018.
Cowell is due for another jury trial on Oct. 16th and 17th for an incident that took place on or around June 20th with the same victim. Counts include kidnapping-felony, 3rd deg. criminal sexual conduct-felony, 2nd deg. assault with a dangerous weapon-felony, domestic assault-felony, false imprisonment-felony, and fleeing a peace officer-misdemeanor.
Cowell is due for sentencing on October 22nd.