Charges dismissed in Eakes case

GRANITE FALLS — A trial for a Granite Falls doctor charged with criminal sexual conduct ended early Thursday, with criminal sexual conduct charges against Mark Eakes being dismissed by the Yellow Medicine County Attorney’s Office.

“Our client is greatly relieved to have this case dismissed,” Ryan Garry, an attorney representing Eakes, said after the trial. “He was an innocent man charged with a crime he did not commit.”

The decision to dismiss the charges came after defense attorneys for Eakes asked the court to throw out the testimony of an alleged victim in the case. They claimed the county attorney’s office had broken a rule for disclosing information before trial.

Assistant Yellow Medicine County Attorney Tara Ulmaniec told the judge that prosecutors had met disclosure requirements, but they would be dismissing the case against Eakes.

The dismissal means the charges in the case, involving four women alleging Eakes touched them inappropriately, can’t be brought back before the court, Yellow Medicine County Attorney Mark Gruenes said Thursday.

Eakes had been charged with a total of seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. According to a criminal complaint, four women alleged that Eakes had sexual contact with them during pelvic or breast exams in separate incidents between 2019 and 2021.

The jury started out Thursday’s court proceedings by hearing more testimony from a 37-year-old woman who alleged that Eakes touched her inappropriately during pelvic exams. However, while the jury was on a morning break, Eakes’ attorneys, Ryan Garry and Andy Birrell, asked the judge to strike the woman’s testimony. They claimed the Yellow Medicine County Attorney’s Office had violated the rules for disclosing information before trial.

In her testimony, the woman said she had talked about a specific incident of sexual contact from Eakes during a meeting with the assistant Yellow Medicine County attorney, about a week before the trial. Garry said defense attorneys had not received a summary of that statement from the county attorney’s office, and were surprised by the information.

Ulmaniec said the prosecution didn’t have additional information to provide the defense. Ulmaniec said the county attorney’s office had met with each of the alleged victims to explain trial procedures, and no additional information was provided on their statements.

District Court Judge Thomas Van Hon said he would consider the motion.

After consulting with Gruenes, Ulmaniec said the prosecution’s position was they had met disclosure requirements. However, they would dismiss the case against Eakes.

Gruenes said Thursday that he made the decision to dismiss the case when it seemed likely that the alleged victim’s testimony would be thrown out. Gruenes said the decision to dismiss the charges should not reflect negatively on Ulmaniec.

“In my opinion (Ulmaniec) is an honest, hard-working attorney. I still have full faith and confidence in her,” Gruenes said.

He also said the outcome of the case shouldn’t reflect badly on the alleged victims.

“This wasn’t their fault,” Gruenes said.


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