Ex-Stillwater car dealer cleared in criminal case

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 14, 2012 - 9:10 PM

Charges against Daniel P. Routson called "incredible."

A Washington County judge has cleared a former Stillwater car dealer of criminal accusations that he swindled a bank, contributing to its failure.

Daniel P. Routson was found not guilty of all three felony counts against him after a bench trial before District Judge Ellen Maas. She dismissed all charges.

"I continue to be troubled about the damage of these public accusations, and the unnecessarily prolonged legal process, has done to my credibility and that of my family," Routson said. He said he maintained his innocence from the start and "fought for over three years to clear my name."

When Routson owned Routson Automotive, he entered into an agreement with Jennings State Bank in 2004 to borrow $600,000. Over time, the principal on the original loan increased to $800,000, according to court documents. The agreement specified that Routson would repay the bank from the proceeds of cars he sold.

State regulators closed the bank in 2009 after chief executive Paul Jennings said a complicated chain of events had led to its demise. One of those alleged circumstances was Routson's alleged theft of bank collateral, which Maas, in her March 1 order, said was the bank's fault because of poor accounting. "Jennings is more a victim of its own sloppy banking practices," she wrote.

In 2008, managers at the bank told Stillwater police they thought Routson had stolen 58 cars that were part of the payment plan because they had failed to receive corresponding paperwork. Routson told police and the bank he would open his financial records for their inspection, but neither did so, Maas wrote in her March 1 court order dismissing the charges.

"This court is satisfied that the 58 cars in question have been accounted for and the related sales all were legally consummated," Maas wrote. The criminal prosecution of Routson, Maas said, was "incredible, without merit and, at the very least, disingenuous."

After regulators revoked the charter of the Jennings bank, it was sold to Central Bank of Stillwater.

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