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Hubbard County settles civil rights lawsuit involving former deputy

Hubbard County will pay an Akeley woman a structured settlement worth "around $500,000" to settle a lawsuit against it and a former deputy sheriff accused of sexually assaulting her.

The Hubbard County Board went into closed session Tuesday afternoon with its attorney and voted to allow the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust to pay Kristy Barsch to settle her civil rights lawsuit.

The settlement gives an undisclosed amount of cash to pay her attorneys, and Barsch will receive monthly checks from an annuity from the remainder.

Barsch alleged former deputy Greg Siera sexually assaulted her while he was on duty in the fall of 2008.

Siera resigned one year ago under pressure. Criminal charges in the matter were never filed when Clearwater County Attorney Jeanine Brand said she could not prove the case against Siera beyond a reasonable doubt.

Siera invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, and declined to voluntarily provide statements to investigators.

Barsch's $2 million lawsuit followed. She named Hubbard County, Siera, Akeley and two of its officers for failing to investigate her charges; she named the governmental units for neglecting to properly supervise the officers she alleged were derelict. Akeley settled the case last fall for $55,000.

Hubbard County Coordinator Jack Paul said a formal news announcement will follow tomorrow or the next day.

He said he anticipated the county's insurance premium will rise slightly.

The case was filed in U.S. District Court. A settlement conference was scheduled for December, in which a U.S. Magistrate suggested the settlement amount and MCIT agreed.

Paul said settling was cheaper than litigating the matter through trial.