Anime Detour's Convention Communication Head Arrested for Sexual Assault

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

Content Warning: the article below includes a graphic description of an alleged sexual assault.

Anime Detour's former head of convention communications Stephen Gifford Jr. was arrested on suspicion of third degree criminal sex conduct by Minneapolis Police on June 9. Gifford Jr. posted bail and was released from custody on June 24 and is awaiting trial.

According to the Order of Detention filed by the State of Minnesota on June 20, police were called to a home in Minneapolis on June 9 with a report that a sexual assault had occurred that previous night. The owner of the home and the 911 caller spoke with police and reported that a party was held at the home and a friend was sexually assaulted during the party.

According to the homeowner, at approximately 2:00 a.m. on June 9 the alleged victim went upstairs into a bedroom in the home to sleep after telling the homeowner that she was intoxicated. The homeowner said that at 5:30 a.m., the alleged victim came downstairs stating that she had awoken to a man penetrating her. The alleged victim provided a description of the man to the homeowner and stated he was wearing an anime t-shirt. The homeowner showed an image of Stephen Gifford Jr. to the alleged victim who identified him as the same man. The alleged victim proceeded to Fairview Hospital for a sexual assault examination.

In an interview with police, the alleged victim described waking up to find herself pulled off the bed where she was sleeping and on top of Gifford, Jr. She stated that after she attempted to get away, he requested she perform oral sex. She stated that she repeatedly said "no" and was able to leave the room. She told police that she did not know Gifford Jr. and never consented to sexual contact with him.

The Order of Detention states that Gifford messaged the homeowner that he may have left a hat in their home. The homeowner located the hat in the same bedroom that the alleged victim was sleeping in during the party.

Gifford Jr. was arrested on June 9. After police told Gifford Jr. his rights he stated that he was at the party and became "blackout drunk." He told police he had a "vague recollection" of going into the bedroom and seeing the alleged victim asleep. He stated that he did not know her. Gifford Jr. told police that he "may have taken her pants off" and performed oral sex on her before asking for her to perform oral sex on him. He stated she declined and he did not remember her consenting to him to do anything to her.

The Order of Detention states that Gifford Jr. is charged with third degree criminal sex conduct and is believed to have "engaged in sexual penetration with Victim knowing or having reason to know that the victim was mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless."

Third degree criminal sex conduct is a felony in the state of Minnesota and carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or US$10,000-30,000 fine plus conditional release.

Gifford Jr. is represented by defense attorney Eric Olson. Anime News Network has reached out to Olson for comment on the allegations and will update this article when and if a statement is issued.

Gifford Jr. was the Convention Communications head for Anime Detour 2017 to 2019. The Convention Communications department covers both the operations and safety and dispatch for the convention. Prior to running Convention Communications, Gifford Jr. was the head of the Operations Department from 2015 to 2017, head of the Programming Department from 2014 to 2015, chairman of the convention from 2011 to 2014, co-chairman from 2010-2011, and in the Dealer Services department from 2008 to 2010. Collectively, Gifford Jr. has been a volunteer member of Anime Detour staff in some capacity for 11 years.

Anime Detour chairman Troy MacDonald stated that the board is not aware if Gifford Jr. was involved in any other conventions. The board does not have records or reports of any complaints involving Gifford Jr. during his time on staff. The Anime Detour board of directors issued a comment to Anime News Network and on social media on Friday following Gifford Jr's arrest.

We at Anime Twin Cities understand that we have lost some of the confidence our members have in our ability to provide a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. Recently, a member of our staff, former chairman and head of convention communications Stephen Gifford Jr, has been charged with 3rd degree sexual assault.

While the event described in the charges did not take place at any of our events, we understand the lack of trust in our organization as a result. We were made aware of the events on June 23rd and spoke with Stephen on June 25th. He was suspended from Anime Detour staff and all ATC events pending the outcome of legal proceedings as per our internal policy. On July 15th, legal documents were made public on social media by concerned parties and Anime Detour officially banned Stephen.

Since then members of the community have expressed their disappointment in our handling of the situation. We understand your frustration. We were ill prepared for this situation and we have let you down. As we look to the future, it is our pledge that we will continue to look into and amend our policies, improve our processing and handling of complaints, and improve our transparency of outcomes within our legal limitations.

We welcome your feedback at [email protected]

Anime Twin Cities Board of Directors

Anime Detour is an annual three-day anime convention held during March or April at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The convention is run by the non-profit organization Anime Twin Cities.

Source: E-mail correspondence, Minnesota Public Records

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