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Big Top founder's sex-assault hearing delayed

WASHBURN -- The scheduled plea hearing for the founder of the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua, accused of sexually assaulting a woman in January, was moved back a week after a hearing this morning.

WASHBURN -- The scheduled plea hearing for the founder of the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua, accused of sexually assaulting a woman in January, was moved back a week after a hearing this morning.

Warren Paul Nelson, 62, artistic director of the Big Top Chautauqua, was charged in Bayfield County Circuit Court on Feb. 6 with second-degree sexual assault and substantial battery, both felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Gene Linehan told Judge Robert Eaton this morning that the case is close to being resolved. He suggested a plea agreement could hinge on whether Nelson is responsible for fracturing one of the woman's teeth, which could elevate the crime to a potential felony, a crime to which Nelson is considering pleading guilty.

Iron County District Attorney Martin Lipske, who is serving as special prosecutor in the case, filed amended information today adding the crimes of misdemeanor battery and fourth-degree assault. Presumably, those lesser charges could be part of a plea agreement.

Linehan filed a document with the court this morning indicating that the woman cracked two teeth in an accident with a logging truck. The victim provided the defense with a signed release allowing Linehan to examine her dental records.

Related Topics: BAYFIELD COUNTYCRIME
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