Scott County District Court File No. 70-CR-12-4169
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Patrick J. Ciliberto, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, Assistant County Attorney, Shakopee, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Willis, Judge. [*]
Appellant challenges his conviction of failure to register as a predatory offender, arguing that (1) the prosecutor committed misconduct by repeatedly asking "were they lying" questions during cross-examination and (2) his ten-year conditional-release period must be reduced to five years or his case remanded for resentencing because he did not validly waive his right to a jury trial on the issue of whether he was assigned a risk-level III under Minn. Stat. § 244.052 (2010) at the time of the violation of the registration statute. Appellant also submitted a pro se supplemental brief. Because any prosecutorial misconduct that occurred did not impair appellant's right to a fair trial and because his sentence is authorized by statute, we affirm.
In October 2011, appellant Dashondra Webster rented a room at the Savage Motor Inn (the motel). As a consequence of a prior conviction of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Webster is required to register his address with local police. The most recent address information that Webster provided to the Savage Police Department listed the "Savage Motel" as his primary address and did not list a secondary address.
In late 2011, Webster worked the second shift at the Gedney factory, commuting to work with his sister. After Webster's sister stopped working for Gedney in December 2011, he began getting rides from C.A., a coworker. They began spending time together socially at her home in Apple Valley and at the motel and developed a sexual relationship.
In February 2012, the Savage Police Department conducted a regularly scheduled registration check on Webster. Detective Sergeant Laura Kvasnicka, the head of the investigative unit, visited the motel on February 15 at approximately 1:00 p.m. and on February 17, around 11:30 a.m. She was unable to make contact with Webster. Officer Andrew Dahmes was assigned to assist Detective Kvasnicka. Officer Dahmes testified that he was shown a picture of Webster for identification purposes, but had not met him personally. Officer Dahmes visited the motel on February 17 at approximately 7:00 p.m. and on February 18 at approximately the same time. In both instances, he knocked on Webster's door and got no response.
During one of these visits, Officer Dahmes spoke to T.A., the motel's on-site manager, who told him that Webster had not been living at the motel for approximately one month. T.A. stated that Webster had offered to pay $100 a month to keep the room as "a physical address, but [would] not actually live there." T.A. sent Officer Dahmes a series of text messages that she had exchanged with Webster about the move. She testified that she knew that the messages were sent between February 18 and February 22 because she had totaled her truck on the 18th. Officer Dahmes forwarded this information to Detective Kvasnicka.
Webster was subsequently arrested and charged with one count of knowingly violating the predatory-offender registration requirement or intentionally providing false information, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5 (2010). The parties agreed that they would not mention Webster's underlying conviction to the jury and stipulated that Webster was required to register his address.
C.A. testified at trial that she asked Webster to move in with her in January and that he moved in on or around February 10. She stated that they moved Webster's personal belongings to her house at that time but that he wanted to keep his address at the motel so that "if there were any cops looking for him, they wouldn't come to [C.A.'s] house." C.A. testified that she learned that Webster had a duty to register after he was arrested.
C.A. also testified that she met T.A. after her relationship with Webster began. C.A. said that she was jealous of T.A. and concerned that T.A. was also involved in a sexual relationship with Webster. T.A. testified that she knew that C.A. was jealous of her, but that she and Webster were not in "any kind of relationship" that should have caused C.A. to be jealous.
T.A. testified that she spoke to Webster in late January or early February and that he told her that he was going to be living in Apple Valley, but wanted to use the motel as an address. According to T.A., Webster began leaving the rent under the mattress in his room in February rather than giving it to her personally. Webster instructed her that if anyone asked where he was, "to tell them that he was at work or that he wasn't [there], " but that he still occupied the room.
T.A. knew that Webster had moved out because she checked the rooms every day and, in February, entered Webster's room more often than usual for repairs. She testified that, although he had previously had "a lot of bags of clothing and video games" in his room, after February the room was empty with the exception of a few shirts, some food, and bedding. T.A. stated that when she checked the room during the week of February 23, the food in the refrigerator had mold ...