Two women have joined an earlier accuser in alleging that a onetime Renaissance Festival and Trail of Terror supervisor sexually assaulted them when they worked for him as teenagers, according to charges filed Wednesday.
The numerous counts of criminal sexual conduct in total span assaults from 2012 to 2017 while Bryan E. Ellinger managed staff at the seasonal attractions, and they support what prosecutors say he admitted after his arrest in January, when the first woman came forward.
"I guess I have predator behavior because I'm a predator" and need therapy for sex addiction, one of the two criminal complaints filed Wednesday in Scott County District Court quoted the 31-year-old convicted sex offender as saying in a jailhouse phone call.
Ellinger, of Shakopee, appeared in court Thursday and remains jailed in lieu of $400,000 bail ahead of a court appearance Tuesday.
Defense attorney Richard Swanson said Ellinger called him Wednesday night and expressed that "he wants to see what can happen and is willing to talk about a resolution." Swanson said he and the County Attorney's Office are "in discussions" about all three cases, but he declined to offer specifics.
According to the criminal complaints:
The two women behind the latest charges came forward once word circulated about Ellinger's arrest in late January.
One of the women told police that she was 15 when the 24-year-old Ellinger took her into a Trail of Terror trailer in 2012 and had sex with her.
Both women told authorities that it was widely known that Ellinger was preying on teenage girls working for him. One of them said he "flocked" around girls her age back then, the charges read.
Another woman who contacted police about a month ago said she was 17 and he was 28 when Ellinger assaulted her in 2017 on the job at the Renaissance Festival and at the Trail of Terror.
She also said Ellinger took her to his mother's home and forced her to join in sex with him and his girlfriend. County Attorney Ron Hocevar said Thursday that "we're interested into looking into that" accusation and possibly charging the girlfriend as an accomplice.
At one point, the latest accuser recalled telling Ellinger that she was sexually abused as a child by a family member. Ellinger used that information to "role play like he was the abuser from her prior victimization," a scenario that made her feel degraded, the charges read.
Ellinger has at least two convictions for sex-related crimes in Minnesota, according to court records. He was charged in Scott County as a juvenile in 2007 and found guilty of third-degree sexual assault for having sex with someone more than two years younger than him, as well as indecent exposure. He was convicted as an adult for failing to register as a predatory sex offender in 2009.
About a year later, he started working for Trail of Terror and the Renaissance Festival.
A spokeswoman for the operators of the two attractions, Shakopee-based Mid-America Festivals, said the company does not initiate background checks on prospective contractors but has them promise in writing to follow its policies, including avoiding harassment or causing other harm. Each of the contractors also attest to having a history free of crimes or conduct that causes or risks violence against vulnerable adults or children.
In June 2018, a former longtime Renaissance Festival manager was charged with rape. But the case was dismissed last October because his accuser has been unable to travel to Minnesota to testify due to COVID-19 concerns.
The woman's attorney, John Klassen, said at the time of the dismissal that prosecutors told him they intended to refile the case in 2021 when everyone can appear in court safely. No refiling has yet occurred.
Carr Hagerman, 62, has denied the assault, saying he knew the accuser from work but was never alone with her.
Also in 2018, a lawsuit was prepared on behalf of two women who accused Mid-America of failing to protect the plaintiffs from unwanted touching and serial misconduct by Hagerman and unnamed "male co-workers." It alleged that a former security director kept secret logs of "sensitive" incidents to cover up sexual assaults, a charge that Mid-America attorney Sheila Engelmeier called at the time "absurd."
Federal and state court records fail to show the suit actually being filed. However, the allegations did prompt the company to require harassment training for team members.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482