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State v. Richards

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 30, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Alexander Richards, Appellant.


Olmsted County District Court File No. 55-CR-11-6033

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mark A. Ostrem, Olmsted County Attorney, James P. Spencer, Assistant County Attorney, Rochester, Minnesota (for respondent)

Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Chang Y. Lau, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Ross, Judge.

ROSS, Judge

Alexander Richards, intoxicated, repeatedly stabbed a man with a fork. The district court sentenced him to a stayed prison term, subject to probationary conditions, including requirements to complete treatment for substance abuse and to avoid new assaults. Richards committed three additional assaults while he was intoxicated during his probationary period, and he missed numerous treatment sessions. The district court revoked his probation, and Richards now challenges the revocation. Because the evidence supports the district court's finding that Richards violated the terms of his probation and the relevant factors justify its decision to execute his sentence, we affirm.


Alexander Richards was intoxicated when he stabbed a man numerous times with a fork in August 2011. Richards entered an Alford plea to a charge of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon in exchange for the state dismissing other charges. The district court sentenced him to a stayed term in prison subject to numerous probationary conditions, including avoiding assaultive or threatening behavior, living by the rules of his halfway house, and following the recommendations of his treatment program. Richards moved into Silver Creek Corners, a "wet" halfway house that allows residents to consume alcohol. He became intoxicated and assaultive at least three times in 2012 while living at Silver Creek. On the third occasion he punched another resident, and his probation officer, Niquita Niles, reported the violation. She also reported that Richards had missed 28 sessions of his treatment program over a four-month span. The state sought to revoke his probation, alleging three probation violations: engaging in assaultive behavior, not complying with Silver Creek's rules, and not complying with the treatment program.

The district court conducted a hearing at which the state presented evidence from Niles and Ray Dunfee, a case manager in charge of admissions and discharge at Silver Creek. Dunfee testified that he knew about Richards's conduct because he had read a report prepared by staff members. The staff members were not present during the alleged assault, and the report was based on interviews with the residents involved. Their stories independently corroborated one another, but the residents wanted to remain anonymous. Dunfee testified that he had interviewed the witnesses separately and that he routinely relied on similar reports. He also testified that Richards had received a copy of Silver Creek's house rules. Niles testified that Richards missed 28 treatment sessions. Richards testified that he had taken a double dose of his diabetes medicine on the day of the incident and that the drug, combined with his alcohol, caused him to black out.

The district court found that Richards committed all three alleged violations. Niles recommended that his sentence be executed because he had exhausted all other options. She opined that Richards could not remain sober and that he was ineligible for area sober-living facilities. The district court revoked Richards's probation, citing his inability to remain sober, his history of violent behavior while intoxicated, and his repeated failures at treatment. Richards appeals.



Richards challenges his probation revocation, arguing that the evidence does not support the result. The district court has broad discretion to revoke probation and we will reverse the court only when it clearly abuses that discretion. State v. Ornelas, 675 N.W.2d 74, 79 (Minn. 2004). The district court must find "clear and convincing evidence of a probation violation" before revoking probation. Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.04, subd. 2(1)(c)b. Richards contends that the district court erred because the alleged assaults and violations of ...

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