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State v. Gosewisch

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 31, 2018

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Vincent Michael Gosewisch, Respondent.

          Brown County District Court File No. 08-CR-17-699

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Charles W. Hanson, Brown County Attorney, New Ulm, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Melvin R. Welch, Welch Law Firm, LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Jesson, Presiding Judge; Bratvold, Judge; and Smith, John, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Under Minnesota Statutes section 609.349 (2016), an actor's criminal sexual conduct with a vulnerable complainant is excused when the complainant "is the actor's legal spouse" at the time of the offense.

          OPINION

          JESSON, JUDGE

         In this consolidated appeal, the state challenges the pretrial dismissal of criminal sexual conduct charges against respondent Vincent Michael Gosewisch. The charges against Gosewisch stemmed from sexual conduct with a vulnerable adult. Shortly before trial, Gosewisch married the alleged victim and moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court granted the motion after applying Minnesota Statutes section 609.349 (2016), [1]which provides that an actor is excused from criminal liability for sexual conduct with a mentally impaired complainant if the actor is married to the victim. Because we conclude that the exception contained in the statute applies only if the actor is married to the victim at the time of the offense, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         The state filed a criminal complaint against respondent Vincent Michael Gosewisch alleging one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct (sexual penetration) and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (sexual contact) for his sexual encounters with G.H. that occurred on or about April 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016. G.H., who according to psychological assessments functions at the mental capacity of a seven to eight-year-old child, was alleged to be "mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless."[2] In a second complaint, the state alleged that Gosewisch engaged in one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct (sexual penetration) and one count of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct (sexual contact) with G.H. during the evening of May 12-13, 2017.[3]

         Shortly before the trial scheduled for July 2018, Gosewisch and G.H. married, and Gosewisch moved to dismiss all charges involving G.H. as the alleged victim, on the ground that the two are in a voluntary relationship within the meaning of Minnesota Statutes section 609.349. Gosewisch argued that the statute excuses an actor's criminal culpability for some sexual contact with a vulnerable adult, in this instance because G.H. "is the legal spouse of Mr. Gosewisch; they live together, and neither party has filed for legal separation or divorce."

         Following a hearing, the district court dismissed both complaints as to G.H., relying on the "unambiguous" language of Minnesota Statutes section 609.349. The district court found that Gosewisch's alleged conduct did not violate the criminal statutes because section 609.349 prohibits criminal culpability "if the complainant is the actor's legal spouse," the provision includes "no temporal limitation" as to legally married spouses, and Gosewisch is G.H.'s "legal spouse." The district court also rejected the state's challenge to the constitutionality of the statute.

         This appeal follows.

         ISSUE

         Did the district court err by interpreting Minnesota Statutes section 609.349 to excuse Gosewisch from criminal culpability for engaging in sexual conduct because ...


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