- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - A McKenzie County judge has rejected a plea deal for a woman accused of taking all of her mentally impaired uncle’s assets.

Northwest District Judge Daniel El-Dweek told attorneys Tuesday that he wouldn’t accept sentencing recommendations for Sandra Potter, 69, from either side of the case, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/2j7FFKF ) reported.

El-Dweek announced that the case will instead be rescheduled for trial.

The Montana woman faced two separate sets of allegations that she defrauded her uncle, Robert Gross, out of his entire estate, worth about $200,000.

Potter was offered the chance to stick with the Alford pleas she’d made in the fall to two charges of endangering a vulnerable adult, but she opted to withdraw them.

An Alford plea is used when a person doesn’t want to admit guilt, but acknowledges that enough evidence exists for a conviction.

Authorities allege that, in 2013 and 2014, Potter convinced her 87-year-old uncle to sign his farm, will, oil well rights and other property over to her, but didn’t provide sufficient care for him. Investigators found Gross, who suffers from a type of dementia, living alone in a dirty trailer on his farm.

State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz’s and Potter both declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing.

“We wanted to be done with this, we went down to probation so we could avoid a trial,” said Staci Skogas, Gross’s guardian.

Skogas added that in order to pay legal fees Gross sold his farm, which had been in the family for 100 years.

“Bob loved and cared for her, he still does, he still talks fondly about her,” Skogas said in court. “To me that’s the worst kind of crime.”

McKenzie County Judge Robin Schmidt restored Gross’ assets in 2015.


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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