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State v. Hall

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 5, 2016

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Donald Joseph Hall, Jr., Appellant.

         Lac Qui Parle County District Court File No. 37-CR-14-191. Jesson, Judge. Affirmed

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Richard G. Stulz, Lac Qui Parle County Attorney, Madison, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Anders Erickson, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Jesson, Presiding Judge; Stauber, Judge; and Reyes, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minnesota Statutes section 609.749, subdivision 2(4) (2014), which defines stalking to include repeatedly making telephone calls, is not unconstitutionally overbroad on its face or as applied in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

          OPINION

          JESSON, Judge

         Appellant Donald Joseph Hall challenges his conviction of stalking under Minnesota Statutes section 609.749, subdivision 2(4), which defines stalking as repeatedly making phone calls, sending text messages, or inducing a victim to make phone calls, whether or not conversation ensues. Hall argues that this portion of the stalking statute is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. He also argues that there is insufficient evidence to support his conviction. Because subdivision 2(4) is neither unconstitutionally overbroad on its face nor as applied to Hall, and because there is sufficient evidence to support his conviction of stalking, we affirm.

         FACTS

         According to testimony at trial, Hall and the victim, B.R., both lived in a small town in greater Minnesota. B.R. was the city clerk and treasurer who, among other duties, managed the billing for residential utilities. The two knew each other. When Hall initially moved into town, B.R. invited him over for the holidays because he did not have family in town.

         The town had problems with its water-meter reader, and it would occasionally overcharge residents for their usage. Hall complained to B.R. when he received several inaccurate water bills in 2013 and 2014. In an unrelated matter, in early August 2014, Hall's tomato and corn plants in his garden had been cut down, but the police department was not able to locate the responsible party; again, Hall complained to B.R.

         On the evening of August 26, 2014, Hall had trouble falling asleep. He started looking through his bills and noticed that one of them was actually addressed to the city's post office. Thinking that B.R. was making him pay for the post office's bill, Hall made five calls to the city hall's telephone number over the course of one hour in the middle of the night. The five voicemails he left for B.R. are at the heart of this case.

         Hall's first voicemail began with complaints about the mistreatment of neighborhood dogs. As the voicemail continues, his tone became increasingly hostile. He says that "this bullsh-t is going to come to an end." He tells B.R. that she is "done" and that the locals are waiting for someone like him to "step up to the plate and swing the bat." He adds, "Your bullsh-t is about to end." He then described rumors about how B.R. was kicked out of her house for being immoral and how her family had killed a man. He says that "things are going to happen around here real quick, real quick, all done." He ends the voicemail by insulting B.R.'s husband as a "fat mother f-cker." The first voicemail is 3 minutes and 25 seconds long and includes more than 20 expletives. In his second voicemail, made 16 minutes later, Hall insults B.R.'s intelligence and that of other people in town. He advises, "You don't wanna [sic] mess with me." He said, "I'm not from around here, but my peoples back there in the cities are going to make it happen." He ends this voicemail by telling her that it is "time for a wakeup call."

         Hall left a third voicemail half an hour later. He told B.R. to resign the next day. He repeatedly warns her, "Don't test me, don't, just resign." He said that this is not a joke. He tells B.R. that State Auditor Rebecca Otto is now investigating B.R. and the town. He threatens physical violence against a neighbor, "You know what? That f-cking punk down the road here . . . . Told him I'd knock his a-- out in front of everybody and pull his pants down and spank him like the b-tch that he is." He says his neighbor is "the f-cking problem. You're the problem too." Again, he demanded that she resign, that she's "done." He tells B.R., "If you think I am just bullsh-tting you [B.R.], see you don't know who my family is. Alright, I came here trying to be peaceful, not having problems with people, but for some reason you f-cking idiots around here wanna [sic] f-cking play games with people." He warns, "Don't play games with me." He ends the voicemail with, "You're gone, [B.R.], gone."

         Several minutes later, in a fourth voicemail, Hall complains about the neighborhood dogs. In his fifth call, Hall again calls B.R. more insulting names and recommends that she call Rebecca Otto. He tells her to resign again, saying "You're all done." He calls her husband a "fat f-cking pig" and demands that she "get the f-ck out of our town."

         The following morning, B.R. arrived at her office and listened to the messages. B.R. called the police, and Hall was charged with stalking for repeatedly making telephone calls, knowing that the conduct would cause the victim to feel frightened, threatened, persecuted, oppressed, or intimidated and, in fact, causes this reaction. See Minn. Stat. § 609.749, subds. 1, 2(4) (2014). Before trial, Hall moved to dismiss the charge for a lack of probable cause and on the ground that his voicemails were protected speech. The district court denied his motion, concluding that the voicemails were not protected speech and there was sufficient probable cause to support the charge.

         At trial, B.R. testified that she was shocked and terrified because of the sound of his voice and the names she was called. She believed the voicemails were a definite threat because Hall repeatedly said she was "done." After a jury trial, Hall was found guilty and sentenced to 37 months in prison.[1] This appeal follows.

         ISSUES

I. Is Minnesota Statutes section 609.749, subdivision 2(4), unconstitutionally ...

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