Minnesota Sex Offender

Experts Seek Delay in Sex-Offender Program Review

It doesn’t appear that four experts tasked with evaluating the current state of Minnesota’s sex offender program are going to meet the requested deadline to issue their report.

The experts originally told the court they would issue a comprehensive report on the current state of the program by the end of August, but it appears they bit off more than they could chew. They are now asking for an extension into mid- or late November, which can’t sit well with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who just last week announced that he wanted to expedite the review.

“We are aware that the stakes are high and that the Court and parties wish to expedite the process; however, the complexity of the issues at hand and our respective responsibilities and schedules … interfere with our ability to complete a detailed report before the end of August in the professional manner required,” the experts told the court.

Frank said the involved parties “will be discussing this and its implications” during a status conference on Thursday.

Moving Along Slowly

The experts are tasked with reviewing the current Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Program that requires some sex offenders to report to high security facilities after they’ve completed their prison sentence. Residents filed the class action lawsuit in 2011, claiming treatment is inadequate and indefinite.

As we mentioned in a previous post, of the more than 700 residents deemed sexually dangerous or psychopathic, only one resident has ever been released in the last 20 years.

In their letter to the court, the experts announced that they have reviewed more than half of the residents and have met with program leaders and staff, but added they still wanted to review a random sample of program residents and examine re-integration plans prior to releasing their findings.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Kluwe and Cunningham

Two Former Minnesota Athletes Earn Lawsuit Victories

Two former Minnesota athletes – one a Viking, the other a Timberwolf – got some good news regarding their lawsuits on Monday. One saw assault charges dismissed, while the other won a generous ruling. We’ll explain both cases below.

Cunningham Gets Assault Charges Dropped

Former Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham had been charged with felony domestic assault, but Hennepin County prosecutors dropped the charges on Monday, noting there was “not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the charged offense.”

Cunningham had been accused of choking his girlfriend in their Medina home back in April. Police took statements from the involved parties and felt their was enough evidence to book Cunningham on felony domestic assault charges, but a later investigation revealed holes in the prosecution’s case.

Cunningham’s attorney said the free agent forward was “very grateful” when he was informed of the news over the phone on Monday.

“He’s has this cloud hanging over his head,” said his attorney Emanuel Serstock. “He’s going to get back to his agent and start working with his future.”

Cunningham played his last two seasons in Minnesota, but he became a free agent this offseason and has yet to find a new team.

Kluwe Settles Case

The Minnesota Vikings and former punter Chris Kluwe came to an agreement on Monday that ended a seven-month ordeal surrounding homophobic remarks and claims of wrongful termination.

Kluwe, an outspoken advocate for same-sex rights, penned an article on Deadspin.com back in January claiming that he was released from the team because of his outspoken views on the matter. He also accused special teams coach Mike Priefer of making homophobic remarks during the season prior to his release.

Investigators looked into the matter and produced a 150-page report, but the Vikings only shared a 29-page summary of the report. Kluwe demanded they release the whole findings or he would sue. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the two sides met and reached an agreement that resolves the matter in lieu of going to court. According to reports:

  • The Vikings will make undisclosed donations to five LGBT groups over the next five years.
  • The 150-page investigation will not be released.
  • Kluwe will not receive any monetary compensation.
  • Priefer was suspended for three games, but this occurred prior to the two sides striking a compromise.

“I hope we can all move on to our lives now and enjoy playing football,” Kluwe told reporters after reaching the deal. “The agreement is fine.”

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota School Bus

Minnesota Truck Driver Charged For Failing to Yield to Bus

An Apple Valley truck driver who sped by a stopped school bus on a two-lane highway is lucky to only be facing two misdemeanor charges considering his actions nearly took the life of a sixth grade student.

Allen H. Morris, 48, was charged with failure to obey the bus’ flashing lights and a “stop arm” violation in connection with the May 30 incident.

On that day, Morris was driving his truck behind a school bus on a two-lane section of Hwy 23 between New London and Paynesville. That stretch of road has a speed limit of 55 mph, and Morris may not have been expecting the school bus to stop in an area with such a high speed limit. Regardless of whether he wasn’t paying attention, following to closely or thought the move was legal, Morris blew by the bus on the right shoulder of the road.

As you can see in the video below, sixth-grader Alexis Schwartz was mere inches away from being struck by the truck, which was traveling between 45 and 50 miles per hour as it passed.

 

 

“It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me,” Schwartz said after the accident. “My heart was pounding awfully fast and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close.”

The Minnesota State Patrol posted the dashcam video on social media platforms in hopes of identifying the driver. Although he didn’t showcase the best decision making back in May, Morris made the conscience decision to turn himself in to authorities after learning that they were looking for him.

Morris is scheduled to appear in court on September 10. The two misdemeanor charges each carry potential sentences of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Morris has a rather clean driving record. He only has one past driving citation on his record, which occurred back in 2007. His relatively clean record and the fact that he turned himself in will work to his advantage. I expect that he’ll have to pay a fine and complete community service or take a driving class.

In the end, I’m glad nobody was injured. School is about to start up again, so parents and drivers should start mentally preparing to see school buses back on the road. Now may be a good time to refresh your knowledge of the law by taking out Minnesota School Bus Law Quiz!

Related source: Star Tribune

Mike Vanwagner

Coon Rapids Driver Who Killed Teen Had 0.29 BAC

The Coon Rapids driver who hit and killed a Brooklyn Center teen was operating his vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of nearly four times the legal limit, prosecutors said during their opening statements Tuesday.

The case has drawn national media attention, but not because of Michael VanWagner’s abnormally high blood-alcohol or because he was driving without a valid license or insurance. Instead, people from all over the country are chiming in on the nonchalant attitude Vanwagner expressed on social media the days after the accident.

In Facebook posts that have since been taken down, VanWagner posted a photo of his totaled car with the text, “That’s the front end after I got done with her lol :)” In the comments on the photo, a friend asked what happened, and VanWagner replied, “Going into a turn lane and weird ass speed bump flew my left front driver front into a poll then flip and smashed the other side….. 252 and 83rd.” He later added, “I’m all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol.”

Mike VanWagner

The problem is the “weird ass speed bump” VanWagner hit was actually the rear end of a car driven by 16-year-old Jason McCarthy. According to an accident reconstruction team, VanWagner was traveling at roughly 60 mph when his car struck McCarthy’s car. Both cars were thrown into the air, and as fate would have it, McCarthy died in the accident while VanWagner walked away relatively unharmed.

Social Outrage

Although VanWagner wasn’t aware that he killed someone until a few days after the accident, he continued to share some questionable pictures in light of the events that transpired. He shared three captioned photos five days after the accident that depicted:

  • An officer asking a driver “Any drugs or alcohol?” The driver is shown saying, “No thanks, I’ve got everything.”
  • A picture of a woman driver captioned, “You call it ‘road rage,’ I call it ‘aggressively maneuvering around assholes that don’t know how to fucking drive.”
  • Two cars on the road with the caption, “If you tailgate me, I drive slower to piss you off…”

VanWagner has since made his Facebook profile private, but that hasn’t stopped folks from weighing in on other social media platforms. Some top comments from a Reddit post detailing the accident include:

  • “This is a total stranger that killed another total stranger, so this shouldn’t affect me too much. Yet, seeing the screenshot of his Facebook status and the utter disregard towards the fact that he hit and killed a teenager while driving drunk, fills me with a ridiculous amount of rage. I can’t even imagine the level of burning fury the parents must feel after hearing about this.” – Boo-Wendy-Boooo.
  • “Why would you ever brag about drunk driving? That’s like being proud of getting an STD from a one night stand. – gasstationclerk4life
  • “His Facebook isn’t going to do him any favors when he goes to trial for killing a kid.” – IamOfficial

VanWagner was officially charged with two counts Criminal Vehicular Homicide which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine, and one count of Failure to Stop for Accident to Property, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He is currently being held without bail.

Related sources: Reddit, Star Tribune, CityPages

Drunk Family

DUI is a Family Affair for Father, Sons

Like father, like son appeared to be the motto for a Vermont family after a father and his two sons were all booked for driving under the influence on the same day.

The strange incident occurred on Saturday when police responded to a call about a single-vehicle crash. The driver, 22-year-old Josh Woodward, suffered only a few bumps and bruises during the accident, but after running his registration authorities noticed that he was operating with a criminally suspended license. During a short discussion with Woodward, officers began to suspect he had been driving under the influence. A subsequent breath test revealed that Woodward was operating the vehicle with a BAC more than three times the legal limit.

That was just the beginning of the bad day for the Woodward family. While authorities were talking to Josh, his 19-year-old brother arrived on scene to check on his brother’s condition. Police noted that Nick Woodward also appeared to be intoxicated, so they asked him to submit to a breathalyzer. Nick failed the test and was arrested and charged with DUI, which just so happens to be his second DUI arrest in the last two weeks.

Perhaps it was his paternal instinct, or maybe it was the booze talking, but before his son’s could be booked into custody, Brian Woodward arrived on scene and tried to move Nick’s car closer to the scene of the accident. Police ordered Brian to stop the vehicle, and they noted that he appeared to be visually and physically impaired. Like his sons before him, Brian submitted to a breathalyzer test. Just like his eldest son, Brian registered a BAC more than three times the legal limit. He was arrested and charged with DUI.

All three Woodwards will appear in court on their DUI charges over the course of the next month.

Related sourcE: WPTZ.com

Bulldozer DUI

Rochester Man Gets DUI on Bulldozer

We’ve written about a bunch of strange DUI stories before, but a Rochester man has found another unique way to be arrested for driving under the influence.

Patrick James Sullivan was arrested on tentative charges of driving under the influence after driving a bulldozer into the Mississippi River.

According to the police report, Sullivan was moving sand on Dakota Island around 1:30am when his bulldozer became stuck in the mighty Mississippi. He told authorities he was working for a construction company hired for a bridge project in the area when he accidentally got his bulldozer stuck in the river.

A crane was eventually brought in to remove the bulldozer from the river, but authorities had some questions for the bulldozer operator. After a short conversation, authorities asked Sullivan to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Sullivan refused, but police felt they had enough evidence to book him on charges of first-degree DWI and refusal to take a breath test.

Authorities say Sullivan has had several run-ins with the law in the past. Winona County Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude said Sullivan has been arrested for DUI on seven previous occasions.

Other Odd DUIs

Although this is the first time we’ve heard of a bulldozer DUI, this is far from the strangest DUI case we’ve seen. Check out some of these crazy stories:

Related source: Pioneer Press

Failure to Yield Minnesota

Pedestrian Awareness Week Comes to St. Paul

In an effort to combat crosswalk collisions, the city of St. Paul has declared this week Pedestrian Awareness Week.

According to city statistics, 302 people have been hit struck by vehicles at intersections in St. Paul over the last two years. That’s far too many, said St. Paul police department spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos.

“Today people have so many distractions, talking on cellphones or just having a bad day, and they don’t take time to notice that there is a pedestrian,” said Paulos. “They are unfocused. It’s clear and evident that drivers don’t follow the pedestrian laws, and for those who violate there is a high probability they will be cited.”

As part of Pedestrian Awareness Week, St. Paul police will camp out at some areas of high foot-traffic to keep an eye out for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, said Paulos. He noted that Minnesota law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at intersections with or without marked crosswalks.

In addition to the added patrols, the city used a $1,000 donation from the Grand Avenue Business Association to add bright orange flags on corners of some busy St. Paul intersections. Pedestrians can pick up one of the bright flags from a tube on one side of the street and deposit it in a similar tube once they safely cross the street.

Madison, Wisconsin instituted 50 such flag sites a few years ago, and city officials say the program has been a rousing success. Local and national studies say drivers stop about 70 percent of the time when a person appears ready to cross the street with the flag in their hand, compared to just 20 percent when they aren’t equipped with the orange flag.

Possible Penalties

As we mentioned in a previous blog, failing to yield to pedestrian fines can rack up quickly. Make sure you stay aware of your surroundings this week and whenever you’re driving in areas of heavy foot-traffic. Some penalties St. Paul police will be looking for this week include:

  • Failure to obey a stop sign or traffic control device – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield right of way – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian – $178 fine.
  • Improper or prohibited turn – $128 fine.

Under Minnesota law, a driver only needs to wait for a pedestrian to cross their lane of traffic before continuing. Most of the time that takes less than 5 seconds. Give pedestrians those extra seconds and say yourself a $178 fine.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Nick Fairley DUI

Lions’ Fairley Sentenced in DUI Case

Detroit Lions star defensive end Nick Fairley received a six-month suspended sentence for attempting to elude police officers during a traffic stop back in 2012.

Considering the joyride led to an arrest for driving under the influence and reckless driving, Fairley could have received a much harsher sentence. In all, Fairley was sentenced to:

  • $750 in fines.
  • Complete two driving classes by December 10.
  • A six-month suspended sentence if he fails to complete his probation or driving classes.

Fairley should consider himself lucky, especially since he didn’t appear to have the best legal counsel. Unbeknownst to Fairley, the presiding judge had ordered that he be present for sentencing. Fairley’s attorneys did not inform their client that he needed to be in court last Thursday, so he remained with the Lions at training camp.

Fairley’s attorneys asked for a delay in sentencing, and although the judge denied their request, District Court Judge George Hardesty also denied a motion from prosecutors to seek an arrest warrant for Fairley’s failure to appear in court. Attorneys Buzz Jordan and Sid Harrell apologized to the judge, saying they failed to read the judge’s initial order that required Fairley to attend his sentencing. The attorneys noted they incorrectly informed Fairley his presence was not necessary.

In the event that Fairley fails to complete his driving courses by December 10, he’ll be forced to serve his six-month suspended sentence. If the judge decided that Fairley would have to begin serving that sentence immediately, the first game he would miss would be against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s still uncertain if Fairley will face any additional discipline from the league office.

Fairley’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the sentencing decision.

Related source: Detroit Free Press

New Minnesota Laws

New Minnesota Laws Go Into Effect August 1

Laws passed during the 2014 legislative session set to go into effect tomorrow include a ban on weapons for individuals convicted of domestic assault and increased fines for speeding in construction zones, among others.

Quick Overview

Below is a quick run through of some of the bigger changes that affect criminal law that will go into effect on August 1.

Ban on Guns for Violent Offenders – Starting tomorrow, any person convicted of domestic violence or stalking will be unable to legally obtain a firearm in Minnesota. The law prohibits any person subject to an order for protection in a child or domestic abuse case from possessing a weapon for the length of the order. Offenders would also have to submit any firearms they previously possessed if the court decides it is necessary.

Additionally, Minnesota added three crimes to the state’s crime of violence statute. Any person convicted of one of the following crimes will be unable to legally possess a firearm in Minnesota for life:

  • Fifth Degree Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault by Strangulation

Work Zone Speeding Fine Increase – This cut and dry law is aimed at keeping construction workers safe. Beginning August 1, motorists caught speeding through a work zone will be fined $300. “The law is important because it provides added protection in areas that can be vulnerable to careless drivers,” said Charlie Zelle, Minnesota DoT commissioner. The law would also include drivers who fail to obey directions from work zone flaggers.

Expanded Drug Law – Legislators expanded the statutory definition of a drug in an effort to remove synthetic drugs from Minnesota communities. The new law states that an illegal drug is, “any compound, substance, or derivative that is not approved for human consumption under Minnesota law [when introduced to the body induces an effect similar to that of scheduled drugs.]”

Related source: Wahpeton Daily News

Kid Park walk

Mom Arrested For Letting Child Go To Park…Wait What?

A Florida mom was arrested and charged with felony child neglect for letting her son go to the park by himself.

“I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation,” said Nicole Gainey, the mother at the center of the case.

The whole incident unfolded last Saturday when Gainey’s 7-year-old son Dominic asked if he could go to the park by himself. Gainey told him he could walk to the park on his own, adding that she “was letting him go play,” and “didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.”

The park in question is about a half mile from their home, and Dominic said it usually takes him about 10 minutes to get there. During the walk Dominic passed by a public pool, and a concerned adult asked him where his parents were. Flustered by the continued questions, Dominic ran off to the park. The adult who stopped Dominic by the pool phoned authorities, and they picked Dominic up and gave him a ride back to his house.

Police could have just dropped Dominic off, but they decided to put his mom in handcuffs for child neglect. Gainey was shocked and appalled by the arrest.

“My own bondsman said my parents would have been in jail every day,” said Gainey, who paid nearly $4,000 in bond fees to secure her release.

Gainey said the arresting officer repeatedly lectured her on the number of sex offenders in the area.

“He just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone,” said Gainey.

Gainey believes that the half mile walk is safe enough for her son during the day, adding that he has a cell phone and they check in with one another regularly.

Gainey plans to fight the charge, but she added that she won’t let Dominic go to the park alone anymore out of fear that she’ll be arrested again.

Avery Appelman comments

Like most states, felony child neglect is subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, on a cool August day, how old does a child have to be before a father can leave him unsupervised in the car while he runs into the gas station to pick up a gallon of milk? 5 years old? 10 years old? How long will the child be in the car? These are all factors that help authorities decide if charges should be filed.

This crime occurred in St. Lucie, Florida. There is no law that specifies that a child needs to be a certain age before they can go somewhere unsupervised, so again, it’s up to the cops to look at all the factors in the case.

Ultimately I don’t believe these charges will stick. Whether or not you believe Gainey was in the right or wrong, simply bringing the child home, talking to the mother about the sex offenders in the area, and mentioning that another violation could lead to child neglect charges probably would have resulted in the same outcome. Gainey would have got the message. Instead, she now has to spend money on an attorney to fight felony charges because a cop decided this was the best way to look out for the safety of a child.

Related source: Fox 6 News

by Appelman Law Firm