[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
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Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4) (2016), which is part of
Minnesotas criminal coercion statute, is facially
unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it
restricts free speech, is substantially overbroad, and is not
reasonably susceptible to a narrowing construction or
severance of unconstitutional provisions.
Olmsted County District Court, File No. 55-CR-18-4564
Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mark A.
Ostrem, Olmsted County Attorney, Jennifer D. Plante, Senior
Assistant County Attorney, Rochester, Minnesota (for
L. Liebow, Godwin Dold, Rochester, Minnesota (for respondent)
and decided by Jesson, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and
state challenges the district courts pretrial dismissal of
its complaint against respondent John Joseph Jorgenson. The
district court determined that the charging statute, Minn.
Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4) (2016), is unconstitutional on its
face because it prohibits a substantial amount of
constitutionally protected speech and cannot be narrowed by
judicial construction. We affirm.
states complaint alleged the following facts: Jorgenson and
J.C. were in a romantic relationship and lived together on
J.C.s property. J.C. ended the relationship in the fall of
2016 and was "in the process" of evicting Jorgenson
at the time Jorgenson made phone calls to J.C.s father.
J.C.s father contacted law enforcement and complained that
Jorgenson called him multiple times, stating that he wanted
$25,000 to not release a video of J.C. "talking about
smoking marijuana." Jorgenson allegedly threatened to
release the video to the Minnesota Department of Human
Services and J.C.s employer.
state charged Jorgenson with one count of attempted coercion
under Minn. Stat. § 609.275 (2016), with reference to Minn.
Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4). Specifically,
the complaint alleged that Jorgenson had unlawfully made
"a threat to expose a secret or deformity, publish a
defamatory statement, or otherwise to expose any person to
disgrace or ridicule, but failed to cause the intend[ed] act
moved to dismiss on two grounds: (1) lack of probable cause
that he had violated the statute, and (2) Minn. Stat. §
609.27, subd. 1(4), is unconstitutionally overbroad in
violation of the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution and article I, section 3 of the Minnesota
Constitution. The state filed a memorandum in opposition, and
initially agreed that the First Amendment is implicated by
Jorgensons facial challenge. But the state also argued that
the statute prohibits specific conduct, is not
unconstitutionally overbroad, and, alternatively, could be
narrowed by construing the statute to proscribe only
"unlawful" threats by requiring a "lack of
nexus between the underlying claim and the threat."
February 2019, the district court issued an order denying
Jorgensons motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause, but
granting the motion to dismiss "on the basis that the
charging statute is unconstitutionally overbroad and
violative of the First Amendment." The district court
reasoned that the statutory language is substantially
overbroad and "not reasonably susceptible" to a
narrowing construction. The state appeals.
Minnesota Statutes section 609.27, subdivision 1(4), an
unconstitutional restriction of free speech under the First
Amendment, and if so, is a ...