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State v. Anderson

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 8, 2015

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Dean Aaron Anderson, Appellant

Isanti County District Court File No. 30-CR-10-308.

Reversed and remanded.

SYLLABUS

Subpart 1(3) of the first-degree controlled-substance-crime statute, Minnesota Statutes section 152.021, subdivision 1, prohibits only the sale of a controlled substance containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or a hallucinogen, even when the sold controlled substance is packaged in dosage units.

For Respondent: Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Jeffrey Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, Cambridge, Minnesota, Scott A. Hersey, Special Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota.

For Appellant: Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jessica Merz Godes, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Reilly, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.

OPINION

Page 713

ROSS, Judge

A jury found that Dean Anderson sold pills containing oxycodone--a narcotic and Schedule II controlled substance--and the district court convicted him of first-degree sale of a controlled substance under Minnesota Statutes section 152.021, subdivision 1(3) (2008). Anderson says his trial was unfair, and he also challenges his conviction on the legal theory that subdivision 1(3) does not criminalize the sale of oxycodone because oxycodone is not one of the drugs identified in the statute. We are not convinced by Anderson's contention that he was prejudiced at trial by the district court's allegedly unfair trial treatment. But our plain-language reading of subdivision 1(3) informs us that the statute establishes as a first-degree offense the sale of only those controlled substances containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or a hallucinogen. We therefore reject the state's position that the statute broadly prohibits the sale of 200 doses of any controlled substance, including oxycodone, whenever the substance is packaged in dosage units. We reverse the judgment, reducing Anderson's conviction to third-degree sale of a controlled substance under Minnesota Statutes section 152.023, subdivision 1(1), and we remand for the district court to enter a judgment of conviction and resentence Anderson for that offense.

Page 714

FACTS

S.D. reported to the Isanti County Sheriff's Office in April 2010 that she had been buying Percocet, a prescription drug containing oxycodone, from Dean Anderson. S.D.'s husband had discovered that she was pawning her jewelry to finance her addiction, and he pressured S.D. to report Anderson to the police. S.D. made the report and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Law enforcement officers arranged three controlled buys between S.D. and Anderson to occur in Anderson's home between May 6 and June 1, 2010. During each police-monitored transaction, S.D. gave Anderson $300 and Anderson gave her a plastic baggie containing 150 Percocet pills, totaling 450 Percocet pills for $900. Police secured a warrant to search Anderson's home and executed it two days after the last controlled buy. They seized four baggies of white pills in a nightstand drawer in Anderson's bedroom. These baggies each appeared to contain the same number of pills as those Anderson sold to S.D. A forensic analyst at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension tested the pills and confirmed that they were Percocet containing oxycodone. Police learned that Anderson had obtained the Percocet pills using his own prescription.

Based on the three controlled buys, Isanti County charged Anderson with one count of first-degree sale of a controlled substance under Minnesota Statutes section 152.021, subdivision 1(3) (2008). That subdivision establishes that a person commits a first-degree controlled substance crime if on multiple occasions within a defined period he unlawfully sells " mixtures of a total weight of 50 grams or more containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or hallucinogen or, if the controlled substance is packaged in dosage units, equaling 200 or more dosage units." The state alleged in the complaint that, because Anderson had sold 450 pills containing the controlled substance oxycodone, which is packaged in dosage units (pills), Anderson committed a first-degree offense under the statute.

Anderson's trial did not commence until May 2013. Anderson appeared the first day wearing a clerical collar and wanting to be referred to as " Reverend Anderson." The state objected. The record indicates that, without his ever engaging in any study or training or even attending a religious service, Anderson obtained " ordination" as a cleric in the " Universal Life Church" through an online application process that takes about five minutes. The district court forbade Anderson to wear the clerical collar in the courthouse, where he could be seen by jurors, and it prohibited him from being referred to as " Reverend."

Testifying officers detailed Anderson's three controlled buys. The jury heard incriminating recorded telephone conversations between Anderson and S.D., and it heard the surveillance recordings that captured the discussions during each drug transaction. The prosecutor also successfully offered into evidence the four plastic baggies of white pills found in Anderson's nightstand. S.D. testified that the controlled buys were not her only purchases from Anderson; she disclosed that she had purchased Percocet from Anderson on a weekly or monthly basis from 2005 to 2010.

Anderson testified in his own defense. He admitted that he had a prescription for pills containing oxycodone. And he acknowledged that he met with S.D. on the dates of the controlled buys. But he denied selling her any of his prescription drugs. He offered an explanation for his seemingly incriminating recorded statements during the controlled buys. He proposed that S.D. came to his house each time only to get business cards, not drugs,

Page 715

so she could distribute the cards on his behalf. He said that when the recording reveals that he said, " I have them all counted out in hundreds," he was merely commenting about the number of business cards he was giving her.

The district court instructed the jury that when a " mixture containing oxycodone is packaged into pills, one pill equals one dosage unit" under Minnesota Statutes section 152.021, subdivision 1(3). The jury found Anderson guilty of first-degree sale of a controlled substance under the statute. The district court sentenced Anderson to 86 months in prison, and it stayed execution of the sentence for 30 years conditioned on probationary terms. Anderson appeals his conviction.

ISSUES

I. Is selling 200 or more dosage units of oxycodone a first-degree controlled substance crime under Minnesota Statutes section 152.021, subdivision 1(3)?

II. Did the trial include errors that prejudiced Anderson?

III. Do any of the issues raised in Anderson's pro se supplemental ...


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