of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Ellison, Attorney General, Edwin Stockmeyer, Assistant
Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Brian
Melton, Clay County Attorney, Moorhead, Minnesota, for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender,
Benjamin Butler, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for appellant.
phrase "significant romantic or sexual
relationship" in Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 2(b)
(2018) is unambiguous.
State presented sufficient evidence to support the jury's
finding that the defendant was in a "significant
romantic or sexual relationship" with the victim when
the offense occurred.
County jury found appellant Gerald Robinson guilty of felony
domestic assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 4
(2018). On appeal, Robinson argued that the evidence was
insufficient to prove that he and the victim were
"persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual
relationship" at the time of the offense. Minn. Stat.
§ 518B.01 subd. 2(b)(7) (2018). The court of appeals
held that the phrase "significant romantic or sexual
relationship" is unambiguous, applied the plain meaning,
and affirmed Robinson's conviction. State v.
Robinson, No. A17-0525, 2018 WL 414327, at *3 (Minn.App.
Jan. 16, 2018). We agree with the analysis of the court of
appeals and therefore affirm.
victim in this case, C.P., met Robinson in March 2016 at a
homeless shelter in Moorhead, and the two began dating.
Because C.P. was employed by the shelter, both she and
Robinson concealed the dating relationship. At the time, C.P.
was and had been living with the same man, D.Z., for more
than 12 years. C.P. claimed at trial that D.Z. was just her
roommate, even though others thought of him as her husband.
C.P. lied to D.Z. to spend time with Robinson.
2016, C.P. and Robinson rented a hotel room together for a
few days, which led to C.P.'s relapse after 14 years of
sobriety. Coworkers of C.P. told her family that Robinson and
C.P. had become close, and C.P. told her sister that she was
attracted to Robinson. C.P.'s sister testified at trial
that C.P. and Robinson had been seen "sneaking
around" in parks together, and C.P. confirmed this
behavior to her.
and C.P. rented another hotel room in July 2016, and C.P.
relapsed again. C.P.'s family, with whom she communicated
daily, became concerned when they did not hear from her for
24 hours and learned that she had missed several shifts at
work. After two days without any contact, C.P.'s niece
filed a missing person's report. On the same day the
report was filed, C.P.'s vehicle was located in the
parking lot of a hotel in Moorhead, and C.P.'s sister,
daughter, and a coworker met a Moorhead police officer at the
hotel. When they found C.P. and Robinson together in a hotel
room, C.P. had a bruise near her eye, a "goose egg"
sized bump on her temple, and multiple lacerations on the
left side of her face. When C.P. slowly came out of the room,
she struggled to walk on her own, seemed very impaired, and
was crying and shaking. C.P. had been with Robinson in the
hotel room, intoxicated and with no food, for five days.
Robinson was arrested at the hotel.
after Robinson's arrest, the officer went to C.P.'s
house to speak with her. She described Robinson as more than
a friend and admitted to having sexual intercourse with him
multiple times. C.P. told the officer that, although she did
not consider Robinson to be her boyfriend, she was falling in
love with him. She further said that she had been dating
Robinson for only the "past couple of weeks."
trial, C.P.'s testimony suggested that she had known
Robinson for about 4 months before the incident. She
testified that, at the time of the last hotel stay, their
relationship was "an ongoing-trying to be-figure out
what[-]where our relationship was going to go." C.P.
testified that she cared about Robinson, and he cared about
her, but their relationship was in the "beginning
process." Further, she testified that she loved him. She
testified that they had been "intimate" at certain
times and were keeping the relationship a secret because she
was employed at the shelter where Robinson was a client. C.P.
testified that she was not appearing at trial voluntarily but
had been served with a subpoena by the State. In addition to
the loss of sobriety, C.P. had ended contact with her family.
She also missed shifts at her job due to the hotel stay and
violated shelter policies prohibiting relationships between
advocates and clients.
did not testify during the trial, but his attorney referred
to C.P. as Robinson's "lover" during opening
and closing arguments.
jury found Robinson guilty of felony domestic assault under
Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 4. The statute requires
"intentionally inflict[ing] . . . bodily harm"
"against a family or household member as defined in
Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, ...