An Eagan man acquitted in the 2009 slaying of Tina SanRoman in Burnsville pleaded guilty last week in Dakota County District Court to the attempted murder of SanRoman's housemate.
The route to the conviction and sentencing of Taylor J. Pass, 22, led from the lower court to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and finally to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Almost four years ago, a jury found Pass not guilty in the stabbing death of SanRoman on April 7, 2009. But the jury deadlocked on a verdict in the attempted murder and assault of her housemate Odai Al-Refo, who suffered superficial knife wounds to his neck and back.
Pass had gone to Shooters Billiard Club in Burnsville that night, allegedly to buy marijuana from a female friend, and was to deliver it to SanRoman's townhouse. Prosecutors said at his trial that Pass was straddling SanRoman in a kneeling position while punching a knife into her chest when Al-Refo came into the garage and saw them. But Pass' attorney said Pass found SanRoman wounded on the garage floor and was attacked by Al-Refo.
After the acquittal, prosecutors planned to retry Pass on the attempted murder and assault charges. District Judge Patrice Sutherland ruled, however, that the case could not be presented without admitting evidence about the murder and that the murder evidence would result in substantial prejudice to the defendant, cause confusion and likely mislead the jury to the degree that his right to a fair trial would be violated.
County Attorney Jim Backstrom appealed, but the state Court of Appeals sided with Sutherland. Backstrom appealed again to the state Supreme Court, which on June 26 reversed Sutherland's ruling and sent the case back to the trial court.
Pass pleaded guilty Friday to one count of attempted intentional second-degree murder. Charges of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault were dismissed.
Pass continued to claim that he doesn't remember what happened in SanRoman's garage but acknowledged that with the evidence prosecutors had, he likely would have been found guilty, Backstrom said.
The plea agreement called for a stayed sentence of 12 years and nine months. Pass was given credit for the 240 days he had served in jail and was put on probation for up to 20 years.
"The guilty plea and sentence [have] brought to an end this very tragic and difficult case for all concerned," Backstrom said Tuesday.