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Acquittal for former West St. Paul council member facing misdemeanors

It is not uncommon for people in St. Paul to get into disagreements with one another, especially when the dispute concerns their home environment. Some disagreements may be over property lines, some arise from planned construction projects and some may stem over barking dogs. However, sometimes arguments escalate with people making criminal charges against the other person involved.

Allegations of misconduct

In August 2012, a council member for West St. Paul found himself facing criminal allegations of misconduct. The charges were filed after claims that the council member used his position with the city to interfere with a construction project and a property purchase. A contractor was allegedly verbally abused by the council member but there is no information on what exactly was said. The contractor was at a redevelopment project next to the member’s home when the event allegedly occurred.

The council member was also accused of threatening to use his position to block a buyer’s building permit applications.  The buyer was intending to purchase property next to the member’s home as a rental investment. It is unknown what type of construction was planned for the property or whether the sale of the property was completed.

Innocent till proven guilty

Regardless of whether a person is accused of a misdemeanor crime, like the one above, or something more serious like drug possession or embezzlement, it is important to remember that the person is innocent until evidence proves otherwise. The United States judicial system is founded on this belief and is designed with the intent to protect the innocent.

This means that the burden of proof lies on the shoulders of the prosecution; it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove to a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of the crime they are accused of. The amount, or type, of evidence required depends on the crime but can involve:

  • Eyewitnesses
  • Forensic evidence like blood, saliva or fingerprints
  • Testimony from law enforcement
  • Defendant’s confession
  • Possession of items relating to the crime
  • Social media postings, pictures and recordings

The Minnesota criminal defense attorney’s job is to question the validity of the evidence presented. If the prosecutor is unable to show that the person committed the crime, then the jury has no other option but to find the defendant not guilty.

Acquitted of all charges

In the case involving the West St. Paul council member, the prosecuting attorney was unable to convince a jury that he committed the crimes he was accused of. As a result, the jury voted for acquittal of all charges.

When people are accused of committing a crime, it may be a good idea for them to seek legal representation. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help them understand what to expect in the legal process, advise them of their rights and inform them of the options available to them.

Source: Star Tribune, “Former West St. Paul Council member acquitted of misconduct,” Pat Pheifer, Jan. 15, 2014

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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