Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CR-12-740
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Charles F. Clippert, Clippert Law Firm, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Chutich, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
In this appeal, the state argues that the district court erred in entering a judgment of acquittal and dismissing the charge against respondent Esau Chucky Sago, rather than ordering a new trial. Because the district court properly denied the state's motion for a new trial and granted Sago's motion for judgment of acquittal, we affirm.
Respondent Esau Chucky Sago was arrested on January 25, 2012, in St. Paul. Ramsey County subsequently charged him with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. See Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(2) (2010). In the complaint, the state cited three alleged prior convictions that made Sago ineligible to possess a firearm: a second-degree riot conviction; a juvenile adjudication for a fifth-degree controlled substance violation; and a juvenile adjudication for terroristic threats.
During a two-day jury trial, the state introduced into evidence a certified copy of Sago's criminal conviction for second-degree riot in Washington County in 2008. The state did not present any evidence of Sago's two juvenile adjudications. The jury convicted Sago of felon in possession based on the riot conviction.
During the pre-sentence investigation process, the state learned that Sago's 2008 conviction was actually for first-degree criminal damage to property and not second-degree riot. Under Minnesota law, criminal damage to property is not a crime of violence that makes a person ineligible to possess a firearm. See Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (2010). The state notified the defense and the district court of the error.
The state moved for a new trial and Sago moved for judgment of acquittal. The district court denied the state's motion, concluding that rule 26.04 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure provided no mechanism for the state to move for a new trial. It granted Sago's motion because his 2008 criminal-damage-to-property conviction did not support a conviction under section 624.713. The state appealed.
I. Motion for a New Trial