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State v. Robinson

Supreme Court of Minnesota

January 9, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Gerald Robinson, Appellant.

          Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Edwin Stockmeyer, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Brian Melton, Clay County Attorney, Moorhead, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Benjamin Butler, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The phrase "significant romantic or sexual relationship" in Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 2(b) (2018) is unambiguous.

         2. The 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.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          ANDERSON, JUSTICE.

         A Clay 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.

         FACTS

         The 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.

         In June 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.

         Robinson 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.

         The day 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."

         At 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.

         Robinson did not testify during the trial, but his attorney referred to C.P. as Robinson's "lover" during opening and closing arguments.

         The 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, ...


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