New lawsuit accuses ex-Chisago County sheriff of sexually assaulting woman in blackmail scheme

Chisago County, Minn. — Former Chisago County Sheriff Richard Duncan is accused in court of sexually harassing a woman and forcing her into a relationship in a blackmail scheme.

The suit, filed Thursday, alleges he used his position as a law enforcement figure to “sexually assault and otherwise victimize” the woman, all while promising to protect her. In October, Duncan was charged with five counts of criminal sexual conduct in connection with the woman’s allegations.

The woman, who is from Chisago County, claims Duncan texted her on April 1, 2017, saying they needed to talk about something important. They met at her home – without her husband or children – and Duncan told her the blackmailer wanted them to act like they were having an affair. If they didn’t comply, the blackmail would kill him and his family, Duncan said.

The blackmailer, however, turned out to be Duncan himself, forging messages under the alias “Control Freak”.

Over the next several weeks, Duncan showed the woman emails in which he directed them to engage in sexual activity, which included recording the activity on Duncan’s iPad. In June 2017, the blackmailer told the woman to attend a sheriff’s conference with Duncan, the documents state.

The affair caused the woman “unbelievable distress, humiliation and shame,” the lawsuit said. Duncan – who was running for re-election at the time – told him he would “keep [her] safe,” but said he couldn’t tell anyone because he thought it was an inside job.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, arguing that the woman has a constitutional right to bodily integrity that Duncan took away from her.

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Duncan, who retired in 2018 due to health reasons, admitted the crime Sexual harassment of a separate female employee between October and November 2017 in a similar fraudulent blackmail conspiracy. The documents show Duncan concocted a ruse to get the employee to go to training with him and spend the night in a hotel, among other things. He filed a civil suit against Duncan, and in March 2022, a jury awarded him $1.1 million.

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