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State v. Janecek

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

October 9, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Sarah Beth Janecek, Appellant.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-15-31717

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Jennifer Saunders, Assistant City Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Joseph P. Tamburino, Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Jesson, Judge; and Toussaint, Judge. [*]

         SYLLABUS

         By the plain meaning of Minnesota Statutes section 609.72, subdivision 1(3) (2014), a conviction of disorderly conduct does not require a contemporaneous witness to the underlying conduct.

          OPINION

          JESSON, JUDGE

         A long-standing disagreement between two neighbors who share a common driveway lies at the heart of this appeal. Appellant Sarah Janecek challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain her conviction of misdemeanor disorderly conduct after her neighbors video-recorded her knocking over their trash bins. Because a contemporaneous witness is not required to support a conviction of disorderly conduct and there is sufficient evidence to sustain her conviction, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Janecek and Lee Aaron and Diane Rosenthal have been next-door neighbors for over a decade. In recent years, however, the relationship had become strained to the point where they no longer speak to each other, and the Rosenthals installed security cameras to monitor the outside of their home.[1]

         In an August 2013 video, which formed the basis for Janecek's conviction, she is seen returning her garbage can to the common area between the neighbors' garages. After doing so, she pushes the Rosenthals' recycling bin forward and knocks over their trash bin, spilling debris onto the Rosenthals' side of the driveway. Janecek then returns another of her bins and walks away.

         Janecek was charged with stalking, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and littering. Minn. Stat. §§ 609.749, subd. 2(3) (2014); .605, subd. 1(b)(2) (2014); .72, subd. 1(3); Minneapolis, Minn., Code of Ordinances § 427.30 (2014). At Janecek's jury trial, the state introduced 17 videos into evidence, which documented a history of confrontations between the neighbors, from verbal altercations to property-line disputes.[2] Referencing previous disputes, which included the August 2013 incident, Lee Aaron Rosenthal testified, "[We] were very tired of our property being moved, dumped, and then we had a problem with the driveway being blocked, so I put [the cameras] up to protect ourselves." He said that he felt "powerless" and "devastated."

         In regard to the August 2013 incident, which is the sole basis for the disorderly conduct conviction, Janecek admitted that she pushed the Rosenthals' containers that spilled debris onto their driveway. She also admitted that on different occasions, she had moved the Rosenthals' containers and a fallen tree branch to obstruct the Rosenthals' side of the driveway. She explained that she was trying to make a statement by moving the tree branches. When questioned at trial about knocking over the Rosenthals' trash can on another occasion, Janecek admitted that she had simply "had it, " stating that when the video camera recorded her actions that day, Lee Aaron Rosenthal was yelling at her, calling her vulgar names.

         The jury found Janecek guilty of disorderly conduct and two counts of littering, but acquitted her of stalking and trespassing.[3] The district court stayed execution of ...


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