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Ramsey County jury awards $8.2 million in clergy sex abuse case

Plus: multiple search warrants involving former Starkey executives; how climate change is affecting Minnesota; defending the Honeycrisp; and more.

The Glean

Now, to collect is another matter. MPR reports, “A Ramsey County jury Wednesday awarded nearly $8.2 million to a survivor of clergy sex abuse in the first case to be decided by a jury under Minnesota’s Child Victims Act. That law opened a three-year window to file claims for older incidents of abuse. Doe 30, the 52-year-old plaintiff, alleged he had been sexually abused by the Rev. James Vincent Fitzgerald at St. Catherine’s parish in Squaw Lake, Minn., in the late 1970s. The case centered on whether the Diocese of Duluth was negligent in how it supervised Fitzgerald, who died in 2009. The jury found that the diocese was 60 percent at fault.”

Reporting on what are now multiple warrants involving former Starkey Hearing executives, Dee DePass of the Strib says: “Federal agents on Wednesday executed search warrants on the homes of two former executives at Starkey Hearing Technologies, the latest turn in a saga that started with mass firings of the company’s top management in September. … FBI spokesman Kyle Loven confirmed that ‘multiple search warrants’ were executed on Wednesday, including one on the home of Scott Nelson, former chief financial officer. Loven declined to elaborate.” Somehow there’s more going on here than one guy peeved that his stepson wasn’t promoted.

Despite it being one big, fat hellacious liberal hoax, Paula Quam in the Grand Forks Herald tells us, “Things are literally heating up in our neck of the woods — that’s according to climate experts with a group called Climate Minnesota. … ‘The data, year by year, decade by decade, are screaming,’ said Mark Seeley, a climatologist and professor at the University of Minnesota, who has been analyzing climate data for 40 years. ‘This is a different environment. This is different than we’ve measured, and we’d better find ways to adjust to it.’ Seeley presented this data, collected in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which showed significant climate changes in Minnesota in terms of increases in average temperatures, moisture and severe storms.In fact, he said Minnesota had the most significant changes in the country next to Alaska.” Data shmata. I know what Sean Hannity says!

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But while we’re talking data, Paul Huttner at MPR is out with his winter forecast. “Meteorologists and climate watchers have talked about it for months now. After last year’s head fake, the Uber, Mega, Godzilla on Steroids El Nino has actually developed as forecast in the tropical Pacific this fall. And yes, this year’s El Nino event has the metrics and meteorological street cred to be compared to the El Nino event of record from 1997-98.

Disturbing. Also in the Herald, Sarah Volpenhein reports, “A veteran UND police officer has been charged with 10 felonies after law enforcement officers say they found child pornography on his laptop. Paul Bradley Meagher, 42, was charged today with 10 counts of possession of child pornography, all Class C felonies, in Grand Forks District Court after being arrested Tuesday evening. Court documents say investigators carried out a search warrant at Meagher’s apartment Tuesday evening, where they found a laptop containing images of adults sexually abusing children as young as 4 years old.”

In the same vein: Elizabeth Mohr of the PiPress reports, “A St. Paul man pretended to be a doctor, convinced female clients that they needed massages to treat their illnesses and then fondled them, according to criminal charges. Fredy Roberto Escobar, 50, has been reported to police by at least three women for similar incidents dating back to 2012, the criminal complaint said. … Escobar had the woman undress and began to massage her but strayed to her genitals, according to the complaint. The woman reported that she became uncomfortable and told him ‘no.’ Afterward, Escobar tried to sell her products, offered to buy food and make her dinner and texted her from his personal phone, the complaint said.” 

All the proof you need that nothing is sacred anymore. Says Connie Nelson in the Strib, “In 2014, the New York Times christened an unknown fruit salad a quintessential Minnesota Thanksgiving recipe. Tuesday the paper dissed the darling of the apple world — the Minnesota-developed Honeycrisp, calling it ‘soft, quickly dissolving in the mouth.’ The article, ‘Beyond the Honeycrisp Apple,’ went on to call its flavor ‘inconsistent,’ declare it ‘maddeningly difficult to grow’ and predicted it would soon be unseated by the Cosmic Crisp, which was developed in balmy central Washington. The comments shook some branches at the University of Minnesota, home to one of the three apple breeding programs in the country.”

That First Amendment thing gets so annoying at times. In the Washington Post, Dan Carpenter writes, “On Tuesday afternoon an Israeli academic was shouted down by two dozen protesters as he tried to begin a lecture before about 100 students and faculty at the University of Minnesota. The speaker was Moshe Halbertal, a professor at NYU Law School and a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at Hebrew University. He was invited to deliver the Dewey Lecture in the Philosophy of Law, which is organized annually by the law school. That the freedom to present a lecture is threatened in this way at a public university is appalling, calling not only for punishment of violations but for a clear statement by university officials defending the free exchange of ideas. The lecture, which I attended, was delayed half an hour as one by one the protesters stood up to shout denunciations of Israel and were escorted from the hall by university police. One young woman came screaming back into the lecture after having been ejected.”

This one continues to fascinate. For the AP, Brian Bakst says, “A former high-ranking Minnesota Lottery official suing over her termination had the attention of Gov. Mark Dayton’s office in 2012 for alcohol-related misconduct that ‘created public embarrassment’ for the agency, newly released documents show. Investigative reports and other data released to The Associated Press under an August records request detail infractions by Johnene Canfield, including several instances of public intoxication while she served as acting lottery director. Canfield was assistant director when she was fired in May from the $116,000-a-year job. Canfield’s attorney, Kevin Beck, said Wednesday that his client doesn’t dispute the accounts but argues that the lottery had a duty to get her dependency help. Instead, Beck said the current lottery chief invited Canfield to drink with him at least a half-dozen times despite her history.”

For WCCO-TV, Liz Collin talks with one of the boys (now 37) who was with Jacob Wetterling when he was kidnapped. “Aaron Larson was 11 years old in 1989, the same age as Jacob. Larson is now 37 and living in southwest Minnesota. He said the Wetterling family called him last Wednesday to tell him about Heinrich’s arrest. Larson says as soon as he saw Heinrich’s photo, he felt differently than he did about any other photo he’d been shown in relation to the case. He believes Heinrich’s voice will be the most telling of all. He has yet to hear that.” That shouldn’t be hard to arrange.

Good one via Bob Collins at MPR. “By now it should be obvious to even the most casual sports fan that professional sports’ patriotic displays must involve more than mere gratitude for service rendered. It does, a report issued today says. … Here’s how Minnesota teams got a piece of the action from the Minnesota National Guard: 

Minnesota Wild – $570,000
• On-ice appreciation for up to 20 soldiers during the season.
• Color-guard ceremony in which a soldier rappels from the catwalk to deliver the puck
• Recognition of a soldier-of-the-game and flag-bearer highlighted on the scoreboard

The Wild ranked fourth among all major sports teams in amount of money accepted for patriotic displays.” But hey, thanks for your service.

It seems the Governor fired first before aiming. The Forum News Service says, “The Becker County attorney says Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s reaction to how she handled an alleged turtle poaching scheme is off base. Gretchen Thilmony said Wednesday that Dayton is wrong to blame her office for downgrading the penalty for the alleged turtle takers. … Thilmony said Dayton spoke too soon. ‘The Becker County attorney’s office is not yet involved in any of these cases and will not be until/unless these defendants come to court … and plead ‘not guilty,’ Thilmony’s statement said.”

Well, he got the attention he appears to have sought. Robb Jeffries in the West Central Tribune writes, “A bomb squad is investigating the contents of a car that was chased by Rochester police Wednesday and implicated in a bomb threat at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Rochester police received a tip about noon of a naked man masturbating in his car and honking the car horn. When the man fled police in a brief car chase, officers realized the vehicle matched the description of one described in a bomb threat at the Twin Cities airport earlier that day, according to Rochester Police Department captain John Sherwin. The man stopped his car at Crossroads Center shopping center and surrendered to police, and he was taken to a nearby hospital for psychiatric evaluation.”