Burnsville man, 33, charged in photo shoot sex assault - KMSP-TV

Burnsville man, 33, charged in photo shoot sex assault

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BURNSVILLE, Minn. (KMSP) -

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that the suspect did not plead guilty in the prior matter as was previously reported, but was found guilty by the court and is appealing that decision.

Felony charges have been filed against a man accused of messaging a girl with a modeling offer on Facebook before allegedly drugging her and sexually assaulting her at a photo shoot.

Eric James Rutherford, 33, is facing one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct relating to an incident in late February. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a maximum of $30,000 in fines.

According to charging documents, the incident occurred in the 600 block of Evergreen Drive after Rutherford arranged to have a "security guard" -- his brother -- pick up the victim.

CHARGES: RUTHERFORD MET VICTIM'S FAMILY

The victim told police Rutherford -- a total stranger -- contacted her via Facebook and told her she could become a model if she came to his home to take some photographs; however, she said she was cautious about the offer until Rutherford agreed to come to her home and meet her parents.

On Feb. 19, Rutherford met with the family and arrangements for a photo shoot were made -- including the arrangement to have Rutherford's brother pick up and transport the girl from her home in Minneapolis to the photo shoot in Burnsville.

VICTIM CLAIMS WATER DISCOLORED

At 9:30 p.m. on Feb 22, the "security guard" took the victim to a home where a family was present -- but all soon left, leaving her alone with Rutherford.

The victim told police that Rutherford tried to get her to drink alcohol or eat food, but she declined. Rutherford took some photographs and gave the victim a glass of water, but the victim says she began to feel dizzy and see stars after drinking it.

The victim told police that when she looked at the water, it was pink or orange in color and she sent a text to her father to say she was uncomfortable.

BATHROOM ASSAULT INCLUDED THREATS

According to the criminal complaint, the victim went into the bathroom to change after sending a text message to her father and was followed by Rutherford, who did entered without knocking while the victim was in her underwear.

Investigators say Rutherford put his hand in her underwear and touched her genitals three times in the bathroom even though the victim threatened to use mace on him if he didn't stop. Additionally, charging documents allege that Rutherford threatened to harm the victim and told her he did not need to take her home.

The victim was eventually returned to her home at 3:30 a.m., but a SANE exam did not occur because the victim showered before making a report.

Both the victim and her father identified Rutherford in a photo line-up, and police say her father told investigators that he did have an exchange with Rutherford where he apologized for touching the victim.

RUTHERFORD IS NOT IN CUSTODY

Although this case marks the second time that Rutherford has charged with sexual assault in two years, he is not in jail.

A year ago this month, Rutherford was convicted of fifth-degree sexual conduct -- a gross misdemeanor. He waived a jury trial in January 2013 in favor of a court trial and was found guilty. He is still on probation for that offense, for which he served 150 days in the workhouse. Rutherford reached out to Fox 9 and said he's currently in the process of appealing the case.

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