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County prosecutor Kathleen Morris, accused of mishandling the widely-publicized...

By RICHARD McFARLAND

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- County prosecutor Kathleen Morris, accused of mishandling the widely-publicized Minnesota child sex abuse case, won a six-week delay Friday in a hearing on whether to remove her from office.

A special commission appointed by Gov. Rudy Perpich is holding a hearing on a petition to oust Morris. The petition came from a former defendand in the case, centered in the little river town of Jordan, in which Morris charged 24 adults with abusing 40 children.

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Morris and Stephen Doyle, her attorney and former husband, took a gamble and walked out of the hearing just after it began Thursday when the panel denied her request for a month postponement to study new charges.

The new allegations were contained in a revised petition made public Wednesday by a counsel appointed by Perpich. The original petition accused Morris of filing criminal charges without sufficient cause.

The new petition charged Morris with dropping charges against some defendants when there was 'sufficient' evidence to obtain convictions, lying, witHholding evidence, physically and verbally abusing her staff, and causing a Scott County deputy to make false statements in writing.

The three-member panel headed by Judge Lynn Olson took testimony Thursday anyway. Doyle asked the governor to intervene and postpone the hearing, but the governor said Olson was in charge.

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The judge announced Friday the hearing would recess until Aug. 1 to give Morris and her attorneys more time to prepare their case.

'It would be impossible to have a full and fair hearing without Ms. Morris and her attorneys being present,' the judge said.

Doyle was about to leave his office to appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a delay when he got the word.

'That's terrific,' Doyle said.

The petition for removal, signed by 2,000 people, accuses Morris of intentional wrongdoing and denying people their constitutional rights in investigating and prosecuting the sex-abuse case.

Several witnesses testified Thursday that Morris violated a court order by interviewing alleged child victims without having adults present. They said she swore at a deputy sheriff, screamed at come of her aides and physically abused twm women on her staff.

Witnesses said Morris gave toys, birthday cakes and books to some of the children she questioned as potential witnesses.

Of the 24 adults arrested, one pleaded guilty, two were acquitted, and Morris suddenly dropped charges against the 21 others. She said she did so to avert a court order to turn over papers that might jeopardize a child murder investigation.

State Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, who took over the investigation, said state agents found no evidence of a murder. He said there was evidence some children were sexually abused but said mistakes in the county investigation made it pointless to renew charges.

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