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Moorhead man could face life in prison after sex-abuse plea

William John Earles

MOORHEAD - A 52-year-old Moorhead man could face a lifetime prison term after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to raping a 16-year-old girl and threatening to expose a nude photo of her unless she let him perform a sexual act on her.

At a plea hearing in Clay County District Court, William John Earles pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which, given his background as a registered sex offender, carries a sentence of life in prison.

However, Earles' attorney, Kenneth Kludt, said there is a possibility Earles could be paroled after 12 years and 9 months in jail.

Earles also pleaded guilty to felony charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of pornographic work by a registered predatory offender and using minors in a sexual performance or pornographic work.

Earles admitted in plea testimony to using a nude photo of a 16-year-old girl to force her into allowing him to perform sex acts on her, which he videotaped. He also admitted to forcibly raping the girl in July after she tried to resist.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, three other charges against Earles were dismissed, including a count of blackmail.

In court records, police had alleged Earles also forced the 16-year-old to clean his home while wearing a variety of costumes, including a football jersey and a French maid outfit.

Judge Lisa Borgen accepted Earles' guilty pleas and set sentencing for May 7.

Earles had originally pleaded not guilty to all counts, and a trial date had been set for April 10.