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Lodge employee at Grand Canyon’s North Rim accuses co-worker of sexual assault

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — An employee of the only lodge on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is facing charges he sexually assaulted and choked a co-worker, according to a federal court indictment.

A judge in Flagstaff ordered a conditional release Wednesday for Jeremy Ean Bird. He was indicted on one count of assault with intent to commit aggravated sexual abuse and three counts each of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact.

Bird, 25, and the female victim were drinking with other Grand Canyon Lodge colleagues in a dorm Aug. 3, the night before his first day working for housekeeping.

According to a criminal complaint, the victim helped Bird back to his room. She said Bird turned aggressive after his friend left the room. The complaint said he pinned her wrists and forced her into sexual acts. The victim said he also put his hand around her neck, causing her to black out twice.

The victim, who had been working at the front desk since mid-July, reported the attack to the National Park Service the next day. In the complaint, rangers say she underwent a medical exam. They also interviewed her, Bird and other staff. Authorities said there was probable cause to arrest Bird.

The Grand Canyon Lodge is the only available lodging to visitors to the North Rim and is operated by Forever Resorts.

Spokeswoman Darla Cook said the company is cooperating with law enforcement but declined further comment.

A public defender representing Bird was not immediately available to comment Thursday. A message left at a phone number listed for Bird also was not returned.

His trial date is scheduled for Oct. 4.

The hotel incident comes as those running the park try to get past a sexual harassment scandal. A report by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General in January found that some male employees who worked in the river district preyed on female colleagues, demanded sex and retaliated against women who refused.

The river district provided limited guided tours and emergency and medical services along the Colorado River and was disbanded as a result of the report. Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga retired and his deputy, Diane Chalfant, was disciplined.

Christine Lehnertz, Uberuaga’s replacement and the park’s first female superintendent, took over this month. She has promised to continue efforts already in place to deal with harassment claims.

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