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Trial set for former student charged in sex assault

9/4/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

A jury trial that could last a week will begin in late February in the sexual assault case against a former Fort Hays State University student.

Three times Wednesday, Leaton McClelland pleaded not guilty in Ellis County District Court after visiting District Judge Preston Pratt announced each of the three charges pending against him.

The charges, all felonies, include rape, aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated sexual battery.

McClelland, now living in Holcomb, was bound over for trial in July following a 3.5-hour preliminary hearing.

The charges against him stem from a incident during the early morning hours of March 3 at a residence in the 400 block of West Fifth.

Two women reported the incident to police later that day.

As he detailed the pending charges, Pratt spelled out the possible penalties in the case if McClelland is convicted. The severity of the penalties will vary depending on McClelland's criminal history.

A district judge for the 17th Judicial District, Pratt was asked to preside over the case. Pratt is based in Oberlin, but traveled to Hays for Wednesday's 15-minute hearing.

Immediately after McClelland pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, Pratt moved ahead to set a trial date.

Defense attorney Paul Oller said the trial should last no more than a week, but Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees said he expects it will take only three days.

Pratt scheduled the trial to begin Feb. 24.

McClelland remains free on bond, which was reduced by Pratt to $20,000.

Magistrate Judge Paula Hofaker had turned aside a similar request at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, telling Oller he could take up the request with Pratt.

In addition to the cash bond, McClelland is being supervised by the Holcomb police chief and is subject to random drug checks.