County District Court File No. 64-CR-14-791
Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Steven
Collins, Redwood County Attorney, Jenna M. Peterson,
Assistant County Attorney, Redwood Falls, Minnesota (for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Suzanne
M. Senecal-Hill, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul,
Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge;
Peterson, Judge; and Smith, Tracy M., Judge.
Minn. Stat. § 611A.01(b) (2016), which identifies the
victims of crimes who are entitled to restitution, does not
include conservators, a court may not find that a conservator
is entitled to restitution.
was convicted of two counts of financial exploitation of a
vulnerable adult. He challenges his conviction and the denial
of his motion for a new trial, arguing that the jury's
verdicts were inconsistent. He also challenges the district
court's order that he pay restitution to the vulnerable
adult's conservator, arguing that conservators are not
among the entities identified as victims entitled to
restitution by Minn. Stat. § 611A.01(b). Because
appellant's challenge to his conviction is based on a
misreading of the jury's verdicts, we affirm the
conviction. However, because we agree that the district
court, like this court, has no authority to add to those whom
the legislature has identified as victims entitled to
restitution, we reverse the restitution order and remand for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
most of 2014, appellant David Christensen had control of the
financial affairs of his uncle, A.C., a vulnerable adult.
Appellant was charged with financial exploitation of a
vulnerable adult under Minn. Stat. § 609.2335, subd.
1(1)(ii) (using a vulnerable adult's resources for the
benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult) and (iii)
(depriving a vulnerable adult of the vulnerable adult's
resources for the benefit of someone else) (2012). In 2015,
the district court appointed Lutheran Social Services
(L.S.S.) as A.C.'s conservator.
conclusion of appellant's trial, the jurors received
eight verdict forms. The forms for charges one through four
each asked first if appellant was guilty of violating Minn.
Stat. § 609.2335, subd. 1(1)(ii), then, if he was
guilty, in what amount: $5, 000 to $35, 000 (charge one); $1,
000 to $5, 000 (charge two); $500 to $1, 000 (charge three);
and "not more than $500" (charge four). Charges
five through eight asked if appellant was guilty of violating
Minn. Stat. § 609.2335, subd. 1(1)(iii) and, if so, in
which of those amounts.
jury found appellant guilty of charges one through four in
the amount of $1, 000 to $5, 000 (charge two) and not guilty
of charges five through eight. Appellant moved for a new
trial, arguing, among other things, that the jury's
verdicts were legally inconsistent. His motion for a new
trial was denied. Appellant's sentence was stayed, and he
was placed on probation for up to five years. He filed a
notice of appeal from the judgment (A16-1029).
in its capacity as A.C.'s conservator, filed a request
for restitution for him. L.S.S. stated that the funds it
sought to recover "were used by [appellant] for his own
benefit. These funds belonged to [A.C.]-a vulnerable
adult." Attached to the request was a list of expenses
totaling $10, 229.14 paid by appellant to various entities,
including $4, 895.56 to a car dealership.
hearing, appellant argued that L.S.S. was not a
"victim" as defined by the restitution statute.
After the hearing, A.C.'s guardian notified the district
court that A.C. "does not seek to collect monetary
restitution from [appellant]." The district court
concluded that L.S.S. was allowed to make a restitution claim
on A.C.'s behalf and issued a restitution order requiring
appellant to pay $4, 895.56. Appellant challenged the
restitution order in a second appeal (A16-1372), and this
court consolidated the appeals.
the jury's verdicts inconsistent?
L.S.S. a "victim" within the meaning of Minn. Stat.