VIRGINIA CITY – A Sheridan man plead not guilty in Madison County District Court Monday to three counts of sexual assault.
Dennis Jensen, 60, was arrested in July on three counts of felony sexual assault pertaining to alleged incidences with three girls, ages 10 to 12, in Sheridan. He was released the day after his arrest on $100,000 bond.
Jensen appeared before Madison County District Court Judge Loren Tucker Monday to enter his plea.
If found guilty, each count carries a possible sentence of four to 100 years and a fine of up to $50,000.
Also in attendance at Monday’s initial appearance were more than 25 people who came in support of Jensen and his family.
The affidavit filed in support of the charges alleges that Jensen inappropriately touched the three girls while they were in his family grocery store in Sheridan. He is alleged to have grabbed the victims’ buttocks, put his hands down two of the victims’ shirts and one of the victims’ pants, according to the affidavit.
At his initial appearance Monday, Madison County Attorney Chris Christensen asked the judge to maintain the stipulations of Jensen’s bail, that he has no contact with minors without another adult present.
Jensen’s attorney, Stephanie Kruer from Sheridan, argued the stipulation made it nearly impossible for Jensen to operate his store. Jensen’s wife worked with him at the store until 1:30 every afternoon, but then went to another job leaving Jensen alone at the store, Kruer said. Much of the business at the store was from school children that stopped by at lunch or after school.
The family had no financial ability to hire another employee to be there in afternoons and family members were not available to help, she said.
Kruer suggested Jensen could put a sign on the store’s door saying no minors admitted without being accompanied by an adult. However, this wasn’t a preferred option because Jensen has not been found guilty of anything.
“The sign flies in the face of your honor’s comment about being innocent until proven guilty,” she said.
Tucker referred to the audience and asked Kruer and Jensen if they thought the people in attendance were there in support of Jensen. Kruer said she thought many of them were.
Tucker asked Kruer if Jensen’s friends might lend a hand to help keep the store open.
One woman in the audience stood and said she would volunteer her help at the store. Tucker thanked the woman, but asked for the audience to remain silent.
Kruer said Jensen would try getting help in the store from friends in the community and if that proved difficult, they would contact the court immediately.