Clay County District Court File No. 14-CR-11-3917
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Kirsi Poupore, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Brian J. Melton, Clay County Attorney, Moorhead, 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 Chutich, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
Appellant Keith Haakon Lewis challenges his conviction of two counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Lewis argues that he was denied a fair trial when the state introduced Spreigl evidence without complying with the procedural requirements for introducing this evidence. Because the challenged evidence was not Spreigl evidence and because any error in admitting relationship evidence was harmless, we affirm.
The charges against Lewis involve two victims, J.J. and her roommate S.J., who both suffer from mental-health issues. J.J. met Lewis in 2006, and they became close friends. Lewis often gave J.J. rides around town and on out-of-town trips.
J.J.'s mother passed away in December 2010, and she received an inheritance check for approximately $8, 900. Because J.J. did not have a bank account, Lewis cashed the check for her, put the money into his bank account, and told her that he would withdraw the money and give it to her after the check cleared. He only gave J.J. about $3, 000 of the money, however, and told her that he was going to keep the rest in his account because he was concerned that she would gamble the money away. J.J. did not ask him to keep the money in his account, but she "just figured it would be safe because we were [such] close friends." J.J. testified that she did not owe Lewis any money and that the money was not a gift.
When J.J. asked Lewis for more of her money out of his account, he told her that he and his girlfriend, S.T., had gone to Las Vegas and that someone at their motel stole his identity and took the rest of J.J.'s money. Lewis told J.J. that the money was gone and she was not getting it back.
S.J. met Lewis through J.J. As he did for J.J., Lewis also helped S.J. and gave her rides around town or on out-of-town trips. In December 2010, S.J. was approved for Social Security disability benefits and received a check for $12, 000 in back pay. After putting about $1, 000 into a bank account, S.J. gave Lewis a cashier's check for the remaining $11, 000. S.J. testified that Lewis told her that she could be disqualified for health-insurance benefits if she had too much cash in her own bank account. S.J. entrusted the money to Lewis because J.J. had done the same thing and S.J. "felt like if [J.J.] could do it . . . [S.J. could] do it, too."
When she allowed Lewis to deposit the cashier's check in his account, S.J. testified that she did not owe him any money, that it was not a gift, and she believed that it was still her money. S.J. later discovered that Lewis had gambled her money away in Las Vegas. S.J. told a friend about the money that Lewis had stolen and the friend reported the theft to the authorities.
County investigators set up an interview with S.J. Before the interview, Lewis told S.J. that she was "getting it for . . . fraud" and that she should not tell anyone what had happened to the money. Lewis wrote out a letter for S.J. stating "I [S.J.] paid Keith Lewis $11, 000.00 for money borrowed ...