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Nielsen v. State

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 5, 2013

Jeffrey Lynn Nielsen, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Washington County District Court File No. 82-CR-10-4424

Charles L. Hawkins, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Francis J. Rondoni, Jeffrey D. Bores, Becky L. Erickson, Chestnut Cambronne PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Willis, Judge. [*]

HALBROOKS, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's denial of his petition for postconviction relief, arguing that he is entitled to a new trial on three grounds: (1) the suppression of Brady material by the prosecution, (2) intentional prosecutorial misconduct, and (3) denial of due process of law and a fair trial. Appellant also contends that the district court erred by denying his motion for an evidentiary hearing on these issues. We affirm.

FACTS

On October 4, 2010, K.M. contacted the Washington County Sheriff's Office and reported observing a vehicle with campaign signs for Stephen Bohnen tied to its top. K.M. followed the vehicle because he believed that a supporter of Bohnen's opponent had stolen the signs. Both vehicles pulled to the side of the road, and K.M. stated that a man, later identified as appellant Jeffrey Lynn Nielsen, got out of his vehicle and approached K.M.'s vehicle. K.M. reported that Nielsen's demeanor was aggressive and threatening and that Nielsen asked "what the f--k he wanted." K.M. said that he was lost, and the encounter ended.

Nielsen was charged with disorderly conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2010), theft in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(1) (2010), and two traffic offenses. Four days later, he filed a civil complaint against K.M., Bohnen, and Washington County, alleging fraud, conspiracy, and malicious prosecution.

The city dropped the traffic charges prior to trial, and the district court granted Nielsen's motion to dismiss the theft charge for lack of probable cause. The district court also granted Nielsen's motion to exclude all evidence about the civil case in the trial on the disorderly conduct charge. The city did not oppose either motion. Following a two-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the disorderly conduct charge, and Nielsen was sentenced to a $1, 000 fine and 90 days in jail, with $700 and 89 days suspended for one year. In lieu of the day in jail, he was authorized to perform eight hours of community service.

In the course of discovery in the civil lawsuit, Nielsen obtained a copy of the prosecutor's file from the criminal case. The file contained three e-mails sent from K.M. to the prosecutor in the two weeks before trial. The prosecutor reviewed these e-mails, but did not disclose them to Nielsen. In a March 17 e-mail, K.M., a certified investment-management analyst, repeated the details of the October 4, 2010 incident, discussed the civil suit and his resulting "extreme stress" and "financial hardship, " and stated that his "license is at stake if [he's] found guilty of fraud."

A March 18 e-mail contained an attachment with a "summary of the facts and [K.M.'s] state of mind" and a letter from Nielsen's attorney in the civil case. The e-mail concluded, "As I understand it, if he's convicted on [disorderly conduct], his suits against me are dismissed. Therefore, I urge you to do what you can to get a conviction even though I know in the grand scheme of things how trivial this charge might seem." In one of the attachments, K.M. stated that "[t]here are deeper implications here, my industry is highly regulated and if I am somehow found guilty of Malicious Prosecution or Fraud my license could be in jeopardy." A March 22 e-mail contained a copy of the text of the attachments to the March 18 e-mail.

Nielsen petitioned for postconviction relief, arguing that he is entitled to a new trial because (1) he was denied due process of law and a fair trial when the prosecution failed to disclose the e-mails; (2) the e-mails were newly discovered evidence; (3) the failure to disclose the e-mails along with certain statements to the jury regarding K.M.'s credibility constituted intentional prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) the ...


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