Fired Minn. DNR worker gets probation in driver-records breaches

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2014 - 7:03 AM
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2010 photo of John Hunt, right, the former administrative manager for the DNR.

A fired state employee who pleaded guilty to breaching thousands of driver’s license files while working at the Department of Natural Resources was sentenced Monday to two years’ probation.

John Hunt, 49, of Woodbury, entered an Alford plea in February to three counts filed in Ramsey County District Court: misconduct of a public employee, unauthorized computer access and unlawful use of private data. He originally faced eight counts.

If Hunt successfully completes probation without ­violating any of its terms and conditions, the convictions will be dismissed. His criminal record will display the charges unless he takes further action to have them expunged, said his attorney, Fred Bruno.

“He’s handling it well,” Bruno said of how Hunt was reacting to the sentence. “This has not been easy. This is the right result.”

Assistant Duluth City Attorney Cary Schmies, who prosecuted the case for the city of St. Paul, said the sentencing was appropriate because there was no public safety risk. Hunt abided by two conditions: He agreed not to seek his job back, and his computer was purged of data. “In this case, I think it’s a fair outcome,” Schmies said.

Ramsey County District Judge Leonardo Castro ordered Hunt to pay $1,000, to undergo mental health therapy and to remain law abiding.

Castro also ordered Hunt to serve one day in jail, and gave him credit for showing up at the county jail to be photographed and fingerprinted. Hunt was processed at the jail and did not serve a day in a cell, but it’s common for such processing to be credited as a day in jail.

Hunt declined to speak due to pending civil litigation in the case when he was given a chance to address the court.

In entering the Alford plea, Hunt admitted that there was enough evidence for him to be found guilty of making about 19,000 searches of protected Driver and Vehicle Services data over five years. Hunt was an administrative manager of the DNR’s enforcement division at the time, and mostly looked up women, many of whom were public figures ranging from politicians to police officers to news reporters.

CHAO XIONG

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