Category Archives: Criminal Conduct

Charges Expected After Mall of America Protest

Although nobody was hurt or arrested during the “peaceful” protest at the Mall of America this weekend, criminal charges may be filed against the organizers. There was no property damage either, but store owners are saying the protest cost them big where it hurts – their wallets.

Thousands of protestors in the group “Black Lives Matter” filled the Mall of America rotunda on Saturday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The group, which hopes to raise awareness and ignite change in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, certainly caused a stir. According to police reports, the waves of protestors made it nearly impossible for shoppers to traverse the mall. The mall eventually went into a partial shutdown for about two hours during the protest.

Illegal to Protest?

You may be thinking, “how can peaceful protestors get in trouble when nobody was arrested, hurt, and no property was damaged?” Well, the Mall of America is technically private property, and their presence caused about 80 businesses to go into lockdown on Saturday.

Nate Bush, who works in one of the stores that had to be shut down, described the chaotic scene.

“You had people yelling and screaming inside the mall that wanted out and you had people yelling and screaming outside the mall that wanted in,” he said. “I would say the mall was less than half as busy as it should have been considering what day it was.”

Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson said the amount of money the demonstration cost storeowners is “staggering.” Johnson and other officials are currently looking on Facebook and social media sites to determine who helped organize the protest.

“This was a powder keg just waiting for a match,” said Johnson. “The main perpetrators are those who continued on their Facebook site to invite people illegally to the Mall of America.”

Another concern was the organized march around the mall. Johnson said they are trying to identify who led the large lap.

“Who led that march through the Mall of America?” said Johnson. “If we can identify those people who were inciting others to continue with this illegal activity, we can consider charges against them too.”

Lena K. Gardner, a member of the “Black Lives Matter” group, said several different leaders took part in organizing the protest, and the mall’s loss in revenue is not their fault.

“We came to sing carols and raise awareness,” she said, “and the Bloomington police are the ones who shut down the mall, not us.”

Related source: WCCO

Diversionary Programs Beneficial to Minnesota Juveniles

Minnesota officials are crediting diversion programs and community-based alternatives as the main reasons why the state spends so much less than the national average when it comes to housing, feeding and guarding juvenile inmates each year.

Findings from the Justice Policy Institute revealed that Minnesota spent $104,839 per juvenile inmate in 2013, and while that may seem high, it’s over $40,000 less than the national average, which comes in at $148, 767. New York spends the most on juvenile incarceration, as their bill comes in at $353,000 per juvenile, per year.

While many states are looking for ways to reduce juvenile incarceration costs, some are looking to Minnesota as an example. Although the state spends more than double than Louisiana, the state that spends the least on per-juvenile incarceration, Minnesota has been praised for its diversionary programs. One small but effective program is the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which helps juveniles prepare for court and reminds them of important dates with phone calls to ensure they follow through with appointments.

“I think we’ve also realized that incarcerating juveniles, short of serious crimes, is not a good idea,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Freeman added that these resources keep juveniles charged with minor crimes like curfew or truancy from ending up in jail because of a skipped court date. Other programs like community-based alternatives have also been found to save on incarceration costs and reduce recidivism.

Arrests Down, But Inequality Lingers

Fewer Minnesota juveniles are being arrested than in years past. Between 1998 and 2011 the number of juveniles arrested each year fell from 79,584 to 36,192. Minneapolis saw a similar drop, as juvenile arrest rates fell 65 percent between 2000 and 2013. State officials credit the drop to:

  • Initiatives aimed at young offenders.
  • Mental health screenings.
  • Risk-assessment tools.
  • Transition plans to help reintegrate juveniles back into the community after serving time.

Despite the encouraging findings, the report also highlights some inequalities when it comes to demographic arrest information. According to the findings, black youths are arrested at a five times higher rate than whites for similar offenses, and Latinos are about twice as likely to be arrested. Minnesota has some of the highest rates of racial disparity in its correction system.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Wisconsin Man Blames DUI on Beer Battered Fish

A Wisconsin man is blaming his latest DUI on a heaping helping of beer battered fish.

John Przybyla, 75, of Friendship earned his 10th DUI on October 12 when officers spotted his truck cross the center line on State Highway 13.

Officers noted that Przybyla smelled of alcohol, so they asked him to step out of the vehicle and preform a field sobriety test. Pryzbyla promptly failed the field sobriety test, but he denied drinking any alcohol that night. Instead, he said his elevated blood alcohol content must have been a result of his recent meal of beer battered fish.

Pryzbyla submitted to a breathalyzer which found that he was operating the vehicle with a BAC of .062. That’s under the standard legal limit, but as you may have guessed, someone who has nine previous DUIs is no longer expected to adhere to regular standards. A condition from a previous conviction said he was not to operate a vehicle with a BAC above .04.

In addition to the charge of driving under the influence, Pryzbyla was hit with a third-offense charge of operating while revoked, and he was cited for having open intoxicants in the vehicle and operating left of the center line.

Fish Fry DUI

For the sake of arguing let’s test Pryzbyla’s theory using some ballpark estimates. For example, let’s say a standard beer batter requires half a can of beer for a batter that covers eight pieces of cod. Let’s also say we’re using a Surly Furious with a 6% ABV.

Now, most of the alcohol would be burned off if the fish were cooked in the oven, but let’s say they are flash fried in oil, and for the sake of arguing, only half of the alcohol burns off, leaving the batter at 3% potency.

The BAC calculator shows that a 200-pound male would need to drink six, three-percent beers in rapid succession to have a .062 blood alcohol content. So lets do the math.

Half a beer = one eight piece cod fry.

One whole beer = Enough batter for 16 pieces.

Six beers worth of fish = 6×16 = 96 pieces of cod in rapid succession, assuming not a drop of the batter goes unconsumed.

Something tells us Pryzbyla came in a few pieces short of 96.

Related source: Channel 3000

Primary Violation Seat Belt Law Saving Lives In Minnesota

Five years ago the Minnesota Legislature made a change to the state’s seat belt law, changing the violation to a primary offense. The change meant that drivers could now be pulled over if an officer spotted someone driving without using a seat belt, even if that was the only traffic law they were breaking. Previously, when it was classified as a secondary offense, an officer could only stop a seat belt-less driver if they committed another driving offense, like speeding or failing to use their turn signal.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, that law change has saved the lives of over 130 Minnesotans.

Researchers analyzed Minnesota crash records before and after the primary seat belt law went into effect. After comparing the data, researchers believe the law has resulted in:

  • 132 fewer deaths.
  • 434 fewer severe injuries.
  • 1,270 fewer moderate injuries.

In addition to the saved lives and reduced number of injuries, researchers say the law has kept money in Minnesotans’ wallets. They believe the reduced crashes saved people at least $67 million in hospital fees, including $16 million or more of state tax dollars that would have been billed to government insurers.

State officials say more Minnesotans are becoming accepting of the seat belt law becoming a primary violation as well. 62 percent of Minnesotans supported the change when it was passed in 2009, and that number has been climbing ever since. Now, 70 percent of Minnesotans say they support the primary law change.

Not surprisingly, seat belt use is also up in Minnesota. Only 86.7 percent of Minnesotans said they always wore their seat belt in the car in 2008, but that number is up to 94.8 percent as of the most recent survey.

Minnesotans would be wise to buckle up during their holiday travels, and not just because roads may be icy. Over 8,000 Minnesotans were ticketed during October’s annual “Click it or Ticket” campaign, and there’s little reason to believe an officer will let you off with a warning. Don’t let your holiday spending money turn into a costly ticket because you didn’t buckle up this season.

Related source: Minnesota DPS

Car Thefts Increasing in the Twin Cities

While national car thefts are decreasing, the Twin Cities are bucking the trend as they’ve seen an increase in cases of Grand Theft Auto.

According to police documents there were 841 reported cases of car thefts in St. Paul between August and November of this year, meaning about 210 cars were stolen each month or seven cars a day.

St. Paul police spokesman Paul Paulos said thieves are no longer interested in the allure of a bike. He says they’d rather steal a vehicle.

“The numbers fit the times,” he said. “Why take a bike when you can break into a car, take it, drive it a couple blocks and dump it?”

Crimes of Opportunity

Despite what Hollywood shows us on the big screen, thieves don’t usually McGyver their way into the car and speed away by hotwiring the engine. Instead, most thieves strike because the victim left their doors unlocked and their keys in their car, or worse, they left their car running while making a quick pit stop.

“I was just running in,” said Chase Berndt, whose car was stolen last week. “I didn’t think I need to lock it since I was going to be right back.”

Police told Berndt that older models like the Toyota he was driving are usually sold for parts, and they are rarely recovered intact.

Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, said thieves are targeting older vehicles with less theft-protection technologies.

“People think you’re going to steal the really hot-looking car, and that’s not true,” Kulda said. “It’s going to be (the) kinds of cars (that) need parts.”

Apparently thieves really needed parts to Honda Accords, as the 1996 model was the most stolen car in Minnesota in 2012. Kulda also noted that stealing newer cars is no easy task, as many come with a smart key or a fob that need to be in the vehicle for it to start.

Top Cities for Car Thefts

Although Grand Theft Auto crimes have risen in St. Paul, the Twin Cities are still well below the top cities for car thefts. You’re much more likely to have your ride jacked in California, as the state boasts nine of the top 10 cities with the highest auto theft rates.

1. Bakersfield, CA.

2. Fresno, CA.

3. Modesto, CA.

4. San Francisco, CA.

5. Stockton-Lodi, CA.

6. Redding, CA.

7. Spokane, WA.

8. Vellejo-Fairfield, CA.

9. San Jose, CA.

10. Yuba City, CA.

Minneapolis-St. Paul comes is a 131st on the list, with 184 auto thefts per 100,000 people. The Twin Cities reported 6,364 auto thefts in 2013.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Ferguson: Grand Jury Decides Not To Indict Darren Wilson

A St. Louis County grand jury ruled that there was not enough evidence to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with a crime in the wake of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The decision, read late Monday night, means that the jury of 12 did not find enough evidence to bring charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or armed criminal action against Wilson. A 75 percent ruling is necessary in Missouri to proceed with criminal charges, meaning nine out of 12 jury members needed to believe their was enough evidence to proceed with charges. In all, the jury met 25 times, heard from 60 witnesses, three medical examiners and listened to 70 hours of testimony.

As expected, the decision was met with some furor. Riots broke out in Ferguson as President Barack Obama urged citizens to express their opinions peacefully. The video is truly a sight to see.

 

The rioting lasted through the night, and reports indicate that at least 12 businesses were set ablaze. 61 people were arrested, and thankfully, nobody was seriously injured.

Examining the Evidence

Without a doubt, the events in Ferguson are going to stick with Americans for a long time. Tensions are running high, and we’re not going to get up on a soapbox and preach one way or another. Instead, just like in the court of law, we want to facilitate the spread of information and evidence so citizens can stay informed about what just happened.

Here is a comprehensive list of the information presented to the grand jury. Included in this list is the grand jury testimony, witness statements, forensic reports, police interviews and much much more. Seek out coverage of the aftermath from news sites and learn why some feel justice was served while others feel like the truth has remained hidden. If you want to peacefully demonstrate your disagreement with the decision, gatherings have been planned in the Twin Cities throughout the day.

We will continue with our Ferguson coverage if any new developments take place.

Minnesota Wants To Increase Penalties For Attacks on Nurses

Minnesota legislators are looking to increase the penalties against out-of-control patients in the wake of a growing number of assaults on healthcare practitioners.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights wants to see the law re-written to hold assailants accountable to the same level as if they had attacked a peace or police officer.

“There should be the same protections and pen­al­ties for at­tack­ing a nurse as there are for at­tack­ing other public safe­ty of­fi­cials,” Atkins said.

Under the current law, those who assault a nurse or healthcare professional are subject to a two-year jail sentence and fines up to $4,000. Rep. Atkins wants to increase those penalties to match assaults on police officers, which carry potential sentences of three years in jail and a $6,000 fine.

While Atkins wants to increase penalties for those who harm nurses, others fear that those with mental disorders might face stiffer penalties for acting out in a state of confusion. For example, a delusional elderly patient at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood recently attacked and injured four nurses with a metal bar. The resident died as officers attempted to restrain him, but Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center said he didn’t think increased penalties would have prevented the incident.

“I don’t see how that would be a big de­ter­rent, how that would keep some­one from com­mit­ting a crime like that,” Cornish said.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, agreed with Rep. Cornish.

“I don’t think a blanket change like that is going to be effective,” Abderholden said. “We could end up criminalizing people … who were not really aware of what they were doing.”

Big Spike

Despite Cornish’s indifference, it’s clear that physical assaults on healthcare professionals are a growing concern. An analysis of workers’ compensation and injury logs show that the healthcare industry is becoming a dangerous place for workers. State nurses have already filed 46 claims for injuries suffered while on duty, a pace that’s set to double the claims filed in 2012 and 2013.

Assaults on nurses is a national problem as well. A 2011 study found that more than 400,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals are a victim of workplace violence every year. The survey also revealed that one in every four nurses lists physical assault as a top safety concern.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Little Falls Murderer Must Pay $21,000 To Victims’ Families

Byron David Smith, the 66-year-old Little Falls man who was found guilty on two counts of premeditated murder in the first and second degree after he killed two teenage intruders during a home invasion has been ordered to pay over $21,000 in restitution to the victims’ families.

The Little Falls saga began nearly two years ago when Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, broke into Smith’s home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith’s home had been frequently burgled, so when he heard people breaking into his house, he waited in the basement with a shotgun. Brady was the first to enter the basement, and Smith shot him as he descended the stairs. Smith then walked up to an injured Brady mortally wounded him with a shot to the face.

Kifer descended the stairs a short while later. Smith again shot the teen as she was coming down the stairs, but when he went to shoot her again, his gun jammed. Smith then retrieved a handgun, and as he stated during his testimony, delivered “a kill shot.”

The case made national news as pundits discussed how far a homeowner could go to protect his or her dwelling. Ultimately the jury decided that Smith’s actions went above and beyond “reasonable measures” in protecting his home, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Court Costs

After the guilty verdict was read, Brady and Kifer’s families submitted a restitution request. They hoped to to recoup $42,000 in restitution costs for expenses like funeral costs, transportation costs during trial, and loss of wages by the parents.

Ultimately the Morrison County District Court met the families half way, awarding them a total of $21,421 in restitution. Brady’s family was awarded $9,577, while Kifer’s family received $11,844.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Report Published

As we mentioned back in August, experts tasked with reviewing Minnesota’s current sex offender program asked to have their report deadline pushed back until mid-November. Today, they published their findings in a comprehensive 108-page report.

In all, the experts issued a list of 44 recommended changes for the program. Some of the most prominent recommendations include:

  • The state’s civil commitment statute should be modified to ensure it only applies to sex offenders and those at the highest risk for recidivism.
  • Expediting the process to move the only female resident to another location.
  • Re-evaluating each resident to see if they truly meet the criteria for commitment.
  • Institute a discharge plan for an offender as they are admitted to the program. The old program left many with ambiguous guidelines and little hope of being released.
  • Both the state and the program should begin preparing communities to meet the needs of future discharged residents.

The report mirrors a state task force finding from 2013 which stated that the current sex offender reform system “captures too many people and keeps too many of them too long.” Officials at the Department of Human Services are currently reviewing the 108-page report to determine the state and the program’s next move.

When you look at the data, it’s hard to suggest the program has been anything but a life sentence for current offenders. Under the program’s 20-year history, of the more the 700 offenders admitted to the program, only two have ever been discharged.

In addition to the changes proposed in the report, the program faces another obstacle in the form of a class action lawsuit. A group of sex offenders has sued the state claiming the old process was a violation of their due-process rights. Their case is expected to presented to a judge in February.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Pioneer Press

 

Deer Season: DUIs and Distracted Driving

Deer season is currently underway in Minnesota, and with gun season opening up in Wisconsin this weekend, odds are you’ll see plenty of blaze orange out and about in the coming weeks. As hunters head to deer camp in hopes of finding that thirty point buck, there’s two things you should be mindful of this time of year: DUIs and Distracted Driving.

Deer Camp DUI

The last weeks of November are prime times for DUIs. Many hunters like to drink after a day of hunting, but getting behind the wheel after you’ve had a few too many is a real problem. If you’re going to celebrate your buck with a few beers, make sure you give your keys to a friend.

The end of November is also a time when we see extra DUI patrols because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Some reports suggest that the night before Thanksgiving is actually the day with the most drunk drivers. Oftentimes college students or recent graduates are back in their hometown to attend a family Thanksgiving the following day, and they want to catch up with pals at the local watering hole the night before the holiday.

Minnesota police conducted extra DUI patrols from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the holiday weekend in 2013, and you can expect similar patrols this year. If you plan on drinking, make sure you have a sober ride home, because cops will be on the lookout.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is another issue this time of year. Even though Minnesota received snow a little earlier than expected, drivers are still getting used to the slick conditions. You may have been able to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds to change the radio station in the summer, but that could lead to an accident if you’re not careful in the winter. Always stay alert while behind the wheel, especially in less than ideal conditions.

Deer are another reason to keep your eyes on the road. Deer are more active during gun season as they can be spooked easily by an approaching hunter or a gunshot. On average, roughly 2,300 Minnesotans will hit a deer with their car this season. 68 individuals have been injured when their car struck a deer and 18 have died as a result of a crash since 2011, so not only should you be monitoring the road, but also keep an eye on roadside ditches. In the event a deer crosses your path, try to slow down quickly and safely. Avoid swerving, as that can cause the car to roll.

In the event you end up with a drunk driving ticket or a distracted driving violation, give us a call. We’ve helped numerous hunters in the past, and we can help you too.