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Five defendants all deny charges in civil suit

Akeley Police Chief Eric Klein, one of five defendants in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a woman claiming she was sexually assaulted by a Hubbard County deputy last year, claims the plaintiff has "fabricated stories" and took advantage of law officers' assistance, kindness and compassion.

The $2 million lawsuit filed by rural Akeley resident Kristy Barsch this summer names Klein, Akeley volunteer reserve officer Travis Carlson, former Hubbard County deputy Greg Siera, Hubbard County and the city of Akeley.

Barsch claims law officers did not act quickly or perform their duties after she was allegedly raped by Siera in 2008. As a result, she claims her civil rights were violated through their inactions.

Answers were recently filed on behalf of all five defendants in U.S. District Court. All five denied wrongdoing, dereliction in their duties or failure to adequately supervise Siera.

Hubbard County's response states Siera was immediately placed on leave after Barsch reported the allegations to former Sheriff Gary Mills last fall, and that Siera resigned this spring amid disciplinary actions the county was initiating.

Klein's response to the lawsuit denied any wrongdoing. He claimed that in July 2008, he found Barsch unresponsive and transported her to a hospital for medical assistance.

Klein "and his wife purchased food and delivered food to Kristy Barsch and did laundry for Kristy Barsch and her children," the answer states. "Indeed, Kristy Barsch asked this answering Defendant (Klein) to be the godfather for her youngest child, presumably because of the support and assistance provided," the answer states.

The Akeley city council voted Monday night to ask the Bemidji police chief to independently investigate Klein's actions during the investigation of Barsch's claims.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted a lengthy investigation once the charges came to light a month after the alleged assault; Clearwater County Attorney Jeanine Brand concluded there was insufficient evidence to pursue the filing of criminal charges against Siera.

Brand was given the case because Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne removed himself.

Akeley's response to the lawsuit acknowledges its police chief "gave contradictory statements to the BCA and declined to provide a DNA sample to the investigator."

But the city denied any wrongdoing or liability in the matter.

Klein filed a counterclaim against Barsch, alleging defamation in her assertion that he also allegedly assaulted her. He is seeking unspecified damages from her.

Klein's response alleged Barsch's claims are "frivolous, vexatious and a sham."

Law officers said they had numerous contacts with Barsch through the years over various sexual abuse allegations she filed with local agencies. They said they treated her with compassion, professionalism and concern during each contact they had with her.

Carlson even gave Barsch and her children the use of his rented home after she was involved in a domestic disturbance with her former boyfriend, the court filings indicate.

Siera, in his response to the suit, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. He said he would not "respond in this forum to matters which may relate to potential criminal charges which could be brought against him."