Jury troubles surround Fitch trial in St. Cloud

Brian G. Fitch
Dakota County Jail
Brian G. Fitch

This is a new one for me. Jury-duty scammers. In the St. Cloud Times Kevin Allenspach writes, “An extra focus came on jury duty recently with a panel of Stearns County residents selected to hear the trial of a Twin Cities man accused of killing a Mendota Heights police officer. The trial was moved to St. Cloud because of pretrial publicity in St. Paul. This jury will be involved with one of the most closely scrutinized cases of the year in Central Minnesota, but juries are selected all the time — and it turns out they’re the backdrop for a financial scam that has caught the attention of the Better Business Bureau. … Scammers, however, may contact you claiming you’ve missed jury duty. The calls or messages threaten people with arrest or jail time if they don’t pay the fine for “missing” jury duty. Scammers then seek personal information like bank account or credit card numbers — even Social Security numbers.” Personally I’d be worried if the people who fall for this were on my jury … if I was innocent.

Speaking of that particular jury. Matt McKinney of the Strib says, “The opening of the Brian G. Fitch trial was delayed Tuesday morning after a second juror asked to be excused from the trial due to fears that her identity was made public in media reports. Juror number 44, an employee of the Stearns County jail, said her daughter contacted her Friday after seeing media reports that published details of the woman’s job. … A seated juror last week later asked to be excused after details about her employment that was revealed during the jury selection process were published in media reports. The woman said friends and colleagues recognized her from the published reports, and she feared for her safety.”

Got a few unpaid bills? So does the state. The AP says, “Minnesota lawmakers are looking to spend $29 million to cover cost overruns at state agencies. The unpaid bills range from $9.6 million from last summer’s flooding to $891,000 for the Minnesota Department of Health’s Ebola preparations. It also includes $1.5 million for the Minnesota Zoo, where officials say they may need to shutter exhibits and lay off staff without an emergency cash infusion.”

Staying close to the mother’s milk. David Paulsen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says, “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will join up to three other Republican presidential contenders invited to an exclusive conservative gathering hosted by a pair of conservative megadonors. The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual winter gathering in Palm Springs, Calif., this weekend, and the list of speakers includes Walker and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida … .” I think we’re reached the point where we can safely assume any group with the word “Freedom” in its name is a wholly controlled subsidiary of Koch Industries.

In the Mankato Free Press, Dan Nienaber reports, “Former Mankato West and Gopher quarterback Philip Nelson has agreed to plead guilty to fifth-degree misdemeanor assault in the case of former Minnesota State University football player Isaac Kolstad. Felony charges against Nelson will be dropped as part of a plea deal. … Kolstad, who can be seen on surveillance video punching Nelson before [Trevor] Shelley punches him, has permanent injuries as a result of the incident. He is continuing physical therapy and could eventually face a fifth-degree assault charge, himself. The time span between Kolstad’s punch and Nelson’s kick is eight seconds.”

Also from Nienaber: “An Oregon man arrested for allegedly having 140 pounds of pot delivered to the Mankato area was able to come up with the cash needed to buy a $200,000 bond for his release, a former ownership interest in a popular Portland night club, and allegedly had a bank account used to quickly move $190,000 in cash since 2009. Somehow Alexander Duncan Lehrer, 30, of Portland was able to qualify for a public defender so he wouldn’t have to hire his own criminal attorney for the felony charges filed against him in November.”

In the Grand Forks Herald, Tom Dennis urges Minnesotans to get serious  … now … about oil transport safety. “the week should not pass without residents taking note of a report on the state’s readiness for an oil-train or pipeline accident. … The trend will last for decades. The benefits to Minnesota of that oil transport will accrue over those decades, too — as they already are, in the form of increased tax revenues and lower gas and oil prices, among other things. Essentially, time spent on emergency preparedness now will pay dividends for years (as long as the new readiness is maintained), and likely save lives and avert catastrophes in the process.” But we have a proud tradition of waiting until after the fireball.

Speaking of non-explosive fuel. Bison 4 is up and running. The Duluth News Tribune says, “The final wind generators in Minnesota Power’s Bison Energy Center wind farm in North Dakota have been turned on and are sending electricity to the Northland. Bison 4, with its 64 wind turbines, completes Minnesota Power’s current plans for the North Dakota wind farm that now totals nearly 500 megawatts of wind-driven electricity from 165 generators. The Bison project is the largest wind farm in North Dakota and now ranks Duluth-based Minnesota Power as one of the nation’s 10 largest wind utilities.”

More dad-blamed gummint reggullations … .  In the Strib, Reuben Saltzman says, “Minnesota will be adopting the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) on January 24th, 2015.  With this adoption will come a lot of changes to the existing building code, which was last updated in 2007 when we adopted the 2006 IRC.  I’ve put together a list of the things that I feel are the most notable changes. … Minnesota’s code is going to be available online, in one place, here  http://www.dli.mn.gov/ccld/codes15.asp.  This is a very nice feature, but the link to view the code online is not live as of 1/20/15.  The folks at the state tell me it’ll be live before January 24th.  I’ll update this blog post as soon as that happens.”

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