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Grand Forks jury takes minutes to find Tennessee woman guilty of sexual assault, luring

Tennessee woman, 47, denies having sex with Grand Forks boy, 16.

It took a Grand Forks jury only minutes on this morning of the third day of Cynthia Kusy's trial to find the Tennessee woman guilty of two counts of sexual assault of a minor and one count of luring a minor over the Internet.

Kusy, 47, was ordered by North Dakota District Judge Debbie Kleven to be put in the Grand Forks County jail until she posted $50,000 bond awaiting an Oct. 3 sentencing.

The jury convicted her of last year luring a Grand Forks boy, 16, to have sex with her in a Grand Forks motel and provide her with photos of his private parts.

Each of the three felony charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Kusy and her court-appointed attorney, David Ogren, had no comment after the verdict. Kusy immediately began calling to find someone to retrieve her personal property from the Fargo motel where she has been staying this week. A sheriff's deputy was to assist her in returning her rental car to the Grand Forks International Airport.

Kleven told Kusy that even if she makes her bail, she can't leave the state until she arranges to have the psychological evaluation done on all convicted sex offenders as part of the pre-sentence investigation.

The jury of five men and seven women retreated to their deliberation room a few minutes after 10 a.m., after hearing closing arguments from both sides.

By about 10:20 a.m., the word was out that a verdict had been reached.

Court officials said it was one of the quickest jury verdicts they have seen.

Prosecutor Carmel Mattison spent much of her 35-minute closing argument reading Internet messages sent from Kusy to the Grand Forks boy who was 16 early last year when the sexually explicit chats and then a personal encounter took place between Kusy and the boy.

The chats showed clearly that Kusy knew the boy was not yet 18 and that she invited, induced and opportuned the boy to engage in sexual performance and contact, Mattison said.

The defense didn't call any witnesses and conceded Kusy had exchanged hundreds of often racy Internet messages with the boy, and met him at a Grand Forks motel in April 2011 for three nights. Kusy also admitted that a week later she drove to Grand Forks, picked him up and took him to Knoxville, Tenn., without telling the boy's mother.

But there was reason to believe Kusy didn't really know how old the boy was, Ogren told the jury during his 15-minute closing argument. And once she met the boy in person in Grand Forks, there is no record of any more sexually explicit Internet messages over Facebook or on Yahoo email accounts, Ogren told the jury.

Kusy's position was that no sexual contact happened between the two, Ogren said, and there was no forensic evidence, such as DNA, indicating it.

The sexually explicit chats between the two were not illegal if Kusy had good reason to believe the boy actually was 18 or older, as the boy had told her at times early in their Internet relationship, Ogren said.

"Did Ms. Kusy use some bad judgment? Yes, she did," Ogren told the jury. "But bad judgment doesn't necessarily equate with criminal responsibility."

Because the young man's psychiatrist testified he was immature with psychological problems and vulnerable to abuse from adults, the Herald has not identified him.

Peter Gesellchen was the alternate juror dismissed before the short deliberation began.

An engineer for the city of Grand Forks, he said it might have been difficult for him to decide on the sexual assault charges, because the boy, who recently turned 18, was not the most credible witness about exactly what took place between him and Kusy.

But on the Internet luring charge, "there was a paper trail," Gesellchen said.

Each of the three charges against Kusy is a Class C felony with maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Judge Kleven set sentencing for Oct. 3.

In asking for lower bail, Ogren said Kusy has no prior criminal history and has made all court appearances.

Earlier this year, Kusy had posted $10,000 cash bond with the court. Ogren explained to her that she could get that bond returned and use it to obtain the higher bond ordered today by using a bonding company.

Kusy told Kleven she was not employed.

"I'm up here by myself," Kusy said, adding that her husband and son, who was 13 in early 2011, remain in Knoxville.