Meeker County District Court File No. 47CR111038
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Anthony Spector, Meeker County Attorney, Rick F. Lanners, Assistant County Attorney, Litchfield, Minnesota (for appellant)
Sharon E. Jacks, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Toussaint, Judge.[*]
Approximately 54 days after a jury found respondent guilty of three counts of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, the district court sua sponte granted judgment of acquittal on two counts and granted a downward-dispositional departure from the presumptive mandatory sentence for the remaining count. The state appeals, arguing that the district court (1) erred by untimely acquitting respondent of two counts after the jury returned the verdict and (2) abused its discretion by ordering a downward-dispositional sentencing departure on the remaining count. Because the district court did not have the authority to enter judgment of acquittal months after return of the verdict, we reverse judgment of acquittal on counts two and three and remand for further proceedings. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing, we affirm the downward sentencing departure for count one.
In November 2011, Meeker County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Pederson responded to a call that someone was shooting rifles over a rural road. When he arrived at the reported location, he spoke to respondent Wayne Dennis Kluver, the registered owner of the property. Kluver informed Deputy Pederson that he was showing his grandson how to sight-in the grandson's new rifle. Kluver asserted that zoning permitted shooting on the property and that he could shoot there as long as he shot into a berm. Later the same day, after learning that Kluver was ineligible to possess firearms, Deputy Pedersen and another deputy returned to the property. They collected four firearms from the property: the grandson's Rossi single-shot .22, an old Winchester bolt-action .22, and two antique firearms that were hanging on the walls (a Stevens single-shot rifle and an 1894 Winchester rifle). The deputies arrested Kluver.
Kluver was subsequently charged with four counts of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(2) (2010). A jury found Kluver not guilty of possession of his grandson's Rossi .22 rifle but guilty of the three remaining counts.
More than a month after the verdict was returned, Kluver moved for judgment of acquittal and alternatively for a dispositional and durational sentencing departure. The district court denied Kluver's motion for judgment of acquittal as untimely, but the district court then sua sponte entered judgment of acquittal on counts two and three, involving the antique guns that had been hanging on the walls. The district court granted Kluver's motion for a dispositional sentencing departure on count one, staying the statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months and placing Kluver on supervised probation for 15 years with conditions, including jail time, a fine, no possession of firearms, and no possession or use of drugs. This appeal by the state followed.
I. The district court lacked authority to grant post-verdict judgments of acquittal.
The state argues that the district court's "motion" for acquittal was untimely and that the district court applied the wrong standard in granting its own motion. We construe the state's argument as a challenge to the district court's authority to grant judgment of acquittal after return of a verdict and after the time for a defense motion for acquittal had expired. We conclude that the district court did not have such authority, and ...