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State v. Anderson

September 12, 2006


Itasca County District Court File No. CR-04-2482.


A conviction of felony burglary, which is later deemed a misdemeanor under Minn. Stat. § 609.13, subd. 1(2), is a "crime of violence" mandating imposition of a firearms restriction under Minn. Stat. §§ 609.165, subd. 1b and 624.712, subd. 5 (2004).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Forsberg, Judge


Forsberg, Judge*fn1

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Ross, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.


Appellant challenges his conviction of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, arguing that (1) he was not subject to the firearm restriction because his felony burglary conviction was deemed to be a misdemeanor after he completed probation; (2) the district court erred in concluding that the search of his home under a condition of his probation not imposed by the sentencing court itself, was lawful; and (3) the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct in closing argument by injecting his personal opinion and vouching for the credibility of witnesses. We affirm.


Appellant William Arthur Anderson was on probation while he lived with his girlfriend Tina Ruschmeyer; his son Tanner Anderson; and Tanner's girlfriend, Amy Lane. Appellant's criminal history leading up to his probation is as follows. In 1996, appellant pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary. The district court stayed imposition of the sentence and placed appellant on probation for the offense. In 2001, upon successful completion of his probation, the district court discharged appellant from probation and ordered that his felony conviction would be deemed a misdemeanor under Minn. Stat. § 609.13, subd. 1(2) (2000).

In 2003, appellant pleaded guilty to, inter alia, a fifth-degree controlled substance crime, for which he was again placed on probation. At the sentencing hearing, the district court ordered probation but did not discuss the terms of the probation agreement. The probation agreement signed by appellant, effective until 2008, required that he remain law abiding and obtain permission before leaving the state, and prohibited appellant from owning, using, or possessing a firearm or using or possessing controlled substances. The agreement also provided that "[appellant] shall, when ordered by [his probation] Agent, submit to search of [his] . . . residence or any other property under [his] control."

In September 2004, Ruschmeyer phoned her mother, Irene Steel, to report that appellant had guns, that appellant had threatened her the previous day, and that appellant has been arrested in Superior, Wisconsin. Steel, in turn, called Itasca County Sheriff Investigator Greg Snyder and told him that appellant had been arrested in Superior and had posted bail. Snyder contacted the Superior Police Department and confirmed that appellant had been arrested and charged with domestic assault against Ruschmeyer the previous day. Snyder phoned appellant's probation officer, Anthony Athmann, and left a message telling him what he had learned regarding appellant.

That same day, a woman claiming to be the mother of appellant's girlfriend phoned Athmann, and told him that appellant had assaulted Ruschmeyer while in a Superior hotel room. The caller, later identified as Steel, reported that Ruschmeyer had told her that appellant kept guns and a large amount of drugs in his home, that the guns were located under his bed, and that there was methamphetamine in a secret compartment behind appellant's dryer. Athmann called appellant to discuss the Superior incident but was unable to reach him.

Later that evening, Athmann, Snyder, and another deputy drove to appellant's house; the officers did not have a warrant to search the house. Outside appellant's house, they met appellant's son, Tanner Anderson, who let them in.

Once inside, Athmann introduced himself to appellant, and told him that he was there to conduct a search for firearms "as explained . . . in his conditions for probation." Appellant replied, "that's fine. I've got nothing to hide." Athmann asked appellant where his bedroom was, and appellant pointed him to his bedroom. Inside the bedroom, the officers lifted appellant's mattress and found two firearms, a .22 semi-automatic rifle and a .20 gauge shotgun, in a compartment at the base of the bed. Appellant denied knowledge of the guns in the bedroom and said to Tanner, "I thought your mother got all your guns out of here." No drugs were found in the home.

Appellant was charged with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b (2004). Appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge and filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the firearm evidence, arguing that it was obtained as the result of an illegal warrantless search. Following an omnibus hearing, the district court denied the motion, determining that the warrantless search was reasonable and did not violate the Fourth Amendment because appellant's probation agreement provided that he submit to searches of his home and the police had reasonable suspicion to believe appellant had violated the agreement.

At trial, the parties disputed the ownership and possession of the guns. Ruschmeyer testified that, before his arrest, appellant had handed the shotgun found under appellant's bed to her and told her to place it in the compartment under his bed. Ruschmeyer testified that she saw a second gun in the compartment. Amy Lane testified that the guns were brought to appellant's home for Tanner Anderson to use for hunting. David Estey, a friend of appellant's, testified that he saw two guns in appellant's bedroom while visiting the home and offered to take the guns because appellant ...

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