Dixon pleads not guilty

LINN, Mo. — Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon said only three words during a less-than-two-minute court appearance Thursday morning.

He said, “Yes, your Honor,” when Special Judge Richard C. Bresnahan asked if he was Michael Dixon.

Otherwise, the 27-year-old sheriff spoke through his lawyer, waiving the formal reading of charges and pleading not guilty to one felony and four misdemeanor charges filed against him last month.

Dixon’s attorney, Travis Noble of St. Louis, also asked for a preliminary hearing, which will have to be scheduled after the state Supreme Court appoints a different special judge to hear it.

Bresnahan ordered that Dixon be finger-printed for the case.

Phelps County Prosecutor John Beger, appointed as a special prosecutor, charged Dixon with taking an all-terrain vehicle without the owner’s permission on June 26 — a felony that, if he’s convicted, could result in a prison sentence of up to seven years, or a year in the county jail, and a fine up to $5,000.

Conviction on the four misdemeanors — first-degree sexual misconduct, third-degree assault, harassment and stalking — could lead to up to a year in the county jail and up to $1,000 in fines on each count.

Beger declined to comment on the charges following the Wednesday morning hearing in Osage County’s main courtroom.

His charges last month were accompanied by a three-page probable cause statement outlining complaints made by a woman who lives in Belle — identified as “C.M.” — and by her fiancé.

Those complaints include Dixon’s taking the four-wheeler about 1:30 a.m. June 26, even as the fiancé was denying him permission to take it, so that the sheriff could look for C.M.

Dixon later returned the ATV to the owner, but taking it is the basis for the felony tampering charge.

The misdemeanor assault charge stems from a reported incident late on June 24, when Dixon, a sheriff’s deputy and C.M. left a party at Dixon’s home in Belle to investigate a fight at a tire store in Belle.

Belle Police Chief Tyler Midkiff also had responded, the Highway Patrol’s probable cause statement reported.

C.M. saw Midkiff’s wife sitting in the family’s car and, the statement said, while talking with Mrs. Midkiff, C.M. “felt something hard being placed between her legs,” then being pulled “straight up her buttocks and into her back.”

C.M. and Erica Midkiff both reported Dixon was standing behind C.M., holding a flashlight.

CM said she asked Dixon what he was doing, and that he replied, “My bad. I’m sorry, I suppose that was inappropriate.”

Dixon last month called the accusations “baseless.”

Noble told reporters Thursday the incident didn’t happen.

“I think the state police undertook an investigation, listened to what the complaining witness had to say, put it together and they moved forward,” he said.

“Just because the state police brought the charges to the prosecutor and they decided to seek charges, it’s a pretty low threshold.”

At the preliminary hearing, Beger must present enough evidence to show a judge that a crime was committed and that Dixon was involved, somehow.

Noble said that also is a low threshold but, if the judge accepts the prosecutor’s evidence, the case then is sent to circuit court for a trial.

Because the state Supreme Court named Bresnahan, a St. Louis County circuit judge, to hear the case at the trial level — and because Presiding Judge Gael Wood removed all judges in the 20th circuit from hearing the case — Bresnahan on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to appoint a different judge for the preliminary hearing.

Noble expects the case eventually will go to a jury trial, but said he didn’t want to skip the preliminary hearing.

“I think that, any time you have an opportunity to challenge a case — which we intend on doing,” Noble explained, “we’re going to hold the government and state to their burden of being able to prove this case.”

Dixon intends to keep fighting the case and, ultimately, Noble added, expects to be found not guilty of all charges.

“This is a case of he-said/she-said,” he noted.

“She’s now, I think, aligned with some political people who are against Sheriff Dixon, and we’ll be able to show that these charges are not true.”

Although the discovery process — when each side has to give the other its evidence and list of witnesses — likely will take some time, Noble wants the case to move through the courts “the quicker, the better, so that there’s not all this distraction for Sheriff Dixon (and) he can get on with the people’s business. ...

“There hasn’t been any question, whatsoever, that Sheriff Dixon is capable of doing the job he was elected (last November) to do.”

Earlier coverage, posted at 1:27 p.m.

LINN, Mo. — Speaking through his lawyer, Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon this morning waived the formal reading of the charges and pleaded not guilty to one felony and four misdemeanor charges filed against him last month.

Dixon’s attorney, Travis Noble of St. Louis, also asked for a preliminary hearing, which will have to be scheduled after the state Supreme Court appoints a different special judge to hear it.

At that hearing, Special Prosecutor John Beger from Rolla would have to present enough evidence to show that a crime was committed and that Dixon was involved in the case.

Beger charged Dixon with taking an all-terrain vehicle without the owner’s permission on June 26 — a felony that, if he’s convicted, could result in a prison sentence of up to seven years, or a year in the county jail, and a fine up to $5,000.

Conviction on the four misdemeanors — first-degree sexual misconduct, third-degree assault, harassment and stalking — could lead to up to a year in the county jail and up to $1,000 in fines on each count.

Noble expects the case to go to a trial, but he expects a jury will find Dixon not guilty of all charges.

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