The Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office recently dismissed charges of Minnesota Criminal Defamation and Stalking against a client. This case was discussed in an earlier blog post, which you can find here.
The charges stemmed from an email sent by the client that commented on an individual’s sexual preferences and activities and also contained a nude photograph of the individual. While the email probably did not need to be sent, it was still protected speech under the First Amendment. The Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office had a different interpretation and decided to charge our client with Minnesota Criminal Defamation and Stalking. Our client maintained his innocence from day one and we proceeded to put together a constitutional challenge to the charges.
As mentioned in the earlier post, Judge Johnson denied our motion to dismiss, barely addressing the constitutional shortcomings of the Minnesota criminal defamation statute. Following the denial of our motion, we proceeded to prepare for trial and to also gather support for an appeal. As the trial date approached, the State offered what’s known as a Continuance for Dismissal for six months. Essentially, the charges would have been dismissed if the client remained law abiding for the next six months. Ordinarily, this would have been a great offer; however, under the facts and circumstances of this case, it was not enough. Our client rejected the State’s offer and proposed what’s known as a Lothenbach plea, which would have preserved our right to appeal Judge Johnson’s pre-trial ruling. The client agreed to stipulate to the state’s evidence and ask the judge to review that evidence to determine his guilt or innocence. Judge Johnson most likely would have convicted our client of the charges, which would have resulted in an appeal to the Court of Appeals. If the Court of Appeals agreed with our position, the charges then would have been dismissed; if not, the conviction would stand. Clearly, this procedure is fairly risky for the client but we were confident in our position.
The State really does not have much to lose in this situation. It is essentially getting a conviction, followed by an appeal. The State would have to defend the appeal and attempt to argue that the Minnesota criminal defamation statute is constitutional. Rather than standing behind the charges filed and defending the statute on appeal, the State dismissed all charges against our client the day before we were scheduled to return to court.
This was a big win for the client. The catch, however, is that Minnesota’s criminal defamation statute continues to be in force and the State can continue to charge individuals with this crime under an arguably unconstitutional statute. At least until someone challenges that statute at the Court of Appeals.
If you think we can help you or someone you know fight your criminal charges, contact our St. Paul criminal defense attorneys today.