Zumbrota man sentenced to year in jail, 20-year probation for sexual assault

July 28, 2018

WABASHA — A Zumbrota man will serve a year in jail as part of a 20-year probation sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Cole Alexander Muenkel, 23, was sentenced Wednesday in Wabasha County District Court. He pleaded guilty to the charge on May 25 for the Aug. 7, 2016, incident. As part of the plea, charges of second- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed.

State sentencing guidelines detail a 12-year prison sentence for the felony charge, but a plea agreement asked Judge Christopher A. Neisen to depart from those guidelines, Muenkel’s attorney Kurt Jerome Knuesel said Wednesday.

“After consultation with the victim and her family, we agreed to the departure because we thought that was the best opportunity for Mr. Muenkel to get the services he needs for chemical dependency and sex offender treatment,” Wabasha County Attorney Karrie Kelly said.

Neisen ruled that the prison sentence be stayed for 20 years. During that time, Muenkel will be on probation with numerous conditions, including that he serve a year in jail. Muenkel must also attend sex offender treatment program and register as a sex offender.

Muenkel will be eligible for work release and has a week to report to the jail to begin his sentence, Knuesel said.

“It was a difficult case with difficult facts. I think it highlights how quickly things can go wrong when young people are using alcohol in excess. My client is certainly remorseful over this whole situation,” Knuesel said. “He looks forward to meeting his obligations under the terms of this sentence and moving on with his life.”

Kelly said Thursday that during the sentencing hearing the victim gave a “very powerful statement of the impact” the incident had on her and her family.

“The victim was incredibly mature with her viewpoint on this, and I do believe that justice is served by his one year in jail with the 12 years still hanging over his head for 20 years,” Kelly said.

The 2016 incident occurred at a party where there was underage drinking. The girl, a teenager at the time of the incident, was passed out on the tailgate of a truck and someone took a photo of her with several males around her, including Muenkel, according to court documents.

The victim said Muenkel gave her alcohol to drink, the document says. The girl woke up in the back seat of the truck some time later to find Muenkel on top of her, sexually assaulting her, according to court documents.

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