Denny’s in jail. The handcuffs have been applied in one of Denny Hecker’s myriad legal conflicts. Rochelle Olson reports for the Strib that Denny might have dodged this 90-day jail term if he had enough dough to cover the $10,000 he owes ex-wife No. 2 and/or a decent explanation for where he got the now infamous and mysterious $125,000 he used to reimburse a 401k account he raided. (He is facing 20 years apiece on roughly two dozen federal criminal charges.) Judge Jay Quam, who has already gotten off a couple of those “quotes of the year” you see in late December feature stories, added another one Tuesday when he said to Hecker, “You have had a trifecta of legal problems that is probably unprecedented in Minnesota history.” And that, your honor, is an understatement.
Columnist Jon Tevlin attended the hearing and picks up some choice minutes of the Q&A between Hecker and his legal adversaries, including the attorney representing aforementioned ex-wife No. 2. Writes Tevlin: “Outside the court, Michael Ormand, attorney for Hecker’s second wife, Sandra, was pleased. He’s represented Sandra since 1983, he said, when Hecker essentially claimed to be broke during divorce proceedings. ‘He moved into a $330,000 house and she and the kids were evicted by the sheriff,’ said Ormand. ‘It’s the same Denny.’ “
The PiPress’s MaryJo Webster and John Welbes note that Hecker came up with $5,000 of the $10,000 he owes ex-wife No. 2, but that wasn’t enough. Then there’s his demanding, uh, therapy regimen. “Each week, he said, he’s seeing a psychologist, a family court services representative, a doctor and two other professionals to deal with the enormity of his difficulties. He’s taking five prescription medications daily.”
Fox9’s Tom Lyden has a concise piece that includes interviews with two of the attorneys involved, one of whom Hecker already owes $30,000 just for taking over for attorneys who have bailed … because he couldn’t pay them. Some guys are just natural-born good Samaritans apparently.
Gov. Pawlenty, who may or may not (or may) have presidential ambitions, has been out of St. Paul quite a bit these past few months, while the usual wrangling has been going on at the Capitol. MPR’s Tom Scheck has done a little homework on the numbers: “[T]he governor has made 11 out-of-state trips since Feb. 4, the day session started. Pawlenty has been gone all or part of the day for 22 of the 54 days of the legislative session. His travel has been extensive, including visits to Alabama, Nevada, New Hampshire and North Dakota.” He adds: “[Pawlenty] may have attended other out-of-state meetings or given speeches that weren’t disclosed. Sixteen of the 22 days Pawlenty was known to be outside of Minnesota were weekdays … On March 14, Pawlenty returned from Florida for the sole purpose of vetoing several items from the bonding bill. He then returned to Florida for a political fundraiser and a family vacation.”
It was a wild scene in Cottage Grove Tuesday as a cop was dragged almost 600 feet by a guy who suddenly decided he wasn’t going to put up with a traffic stop. The cop involved ended up shooting and killing the driver, with the guy’s wife and 11-month-old child in the car. A relative takes an unsentimental view of the death in Elizabeth Mohr’s PiPress story: “Until recently, the couple and their infant son had been living in Woodbury with Jessica’s mother,Suzi, and her husband, Tim Clark. Tim Clark said he wasn’t shocked by the news, saying [the deceased] Robert “Bobby” Wilson has a lengthy criminal history, which, according to court records, includes assault with a dangerous weapon, theft and drug possession. ‘I’m sorry it had to come to this, but this does not surprise me at all … Do you know what a relief it is to know he’s not going to be able to do anything to anybody anymore? It’s nothing but one big relief.’ “
Someone somewhere is going to take this out of context and distort it for all the cruel mockery they can heap on our great neighbors to the east. An AP story says that the Wisconsin Legislature is considering a bill that will allow children to perform in bars on school nights. One legislator “wants to allow children to perform — with a parent present — in a dance hall, night club, tavern or similar place before 9 p.m. on school nights or before 10 p.m. other nights. And only for musical or theatrical performances.”
A shortage of … cars? MPR’s Tom Robertson files a piece on why used-car prices are jumping. “The used car shortage is happening across the country, according to AuctionNet, a data supplier for the auto industry. The shortage has pushed wholesale used car prices up every month last year.” Obviously, no one told the miles-long crowd trying to get through the Lowry Tunnel at any hour of the day. But Robertson reports: “Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, [explains that] the shortage of used cars is most directly linked to the slump in new car sales. Last year about 10.4 million new vehicles were sold in the U.S., approximately 21 percent fewer than in 2008. Fewer new car sales means fewer trade-ins, Taylor said. ‘There are approximately eight million cars that didn’t come into the marketplace in 2008 and 2009‘, he said. That’s about four million fewer used vehicles a year that weren’t available for resale.” In short, you might want to hold off on that classic ’82 Yugo.
By all means, check out WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler’s “Reality Check” on Michele Bachmann’s latest, um, “assertions” about the impact of the health care bill. Says Kessler, “On CBS’ “Face the Nation” last Sunday, Bachmann claimed several times the federal government now controls most of America’s economy. ‘Now we have the federal government taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy,’ she said. ‘This is stunning. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private.’ That’s factually WRONG. According to the Bureau of economic Analysis, the Congressional Budget Office and CBS News, the highest percentage of government spending compared to Gross Domestic Product was at the height of World War II, at 47.9 percent. The lowest was at the start of the Great Depression, when it was 9 percent. In 2009 it was 20.6 percent. In all that time, the GDP has never been 100 percent private.” And it gets worse from the congresswoman after that. Which leads us to ask, “Why is this sort of basic ‘reality checking’ so rare on TV news?”
The (very) familiar complaint about Minnesota’s allegedly rugged environment for business, business investment, venture capital, “angel” investments, yadda yadda, gets a quick and mostly coherent going-over in a blog by Charlie Quimby on the Growth & Justice website and in subsequent comments. (Bob Collins spawned the discussion on his NewsCut blog a couple of days ago.) Commenter Frank Jaskulke tells Quimby, “Angel investments tend to be much smaller amounts of investment than venture capital (less then 1 million versues 3 million+) and are made by individuals or small funds, not large institutions that manage large sums of money. Minnesota does very well in venture capital but is lacking in angel capital. Over time the lack of angel capital will spill over to a reduction of venture capital, which will decrease job creation long term.”
For serious wonks, here’s a bit more on the angel investment tax credit, via Arundhati Parmar in Finance and Commerce: “[T]he lack of angel investment tax credit in the state was stifling early-stage companies that are looking for seed capital — creating, in turn, a negative effect on job creation. Neighboring states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and North Dakota all have angel investment tax credit programs, and many believe that promising startups strapped for cash have left Minnesota in the past because angel investors prefer to invest in states that provide a tax credit to mitigate some of that risk. Now that is going to end.”
To the surprise of no one GameWorks, the two-story fun emporium closed Tuesday in the abyss that is becoming Block E on Hennepin in Minneapolis. The Business Journal’s John Vomhof Jr. files his report, saying: “Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Gameworks also is closing its locations in Long Beach, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Indianapolis; Miami; and Tampa, Fla. In a press release, the company said it ‘has introduced potential new tenants to mall ownership in hopes that some locations may be reopened in the future.’ [Say, what?] Sega Entertainment officials, which will continue to operate eight Gameworks locations, said the restructuring is aimed at boosting profitability and future growth. ‘This challenging economic environment has forced us to make these tough financial decisions’, President and Chief Operating Officer Cory Haynes said in a statement.” Dang pushy economy.