Absent a prosecutor, charges dismissed If there's no prosecutor, there's no trial, either

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2011 - 5:42 PM

The law firm prosecuting East Bethel's cases says the no-show was a crossed wire. Misdemeanor charges will be refiled.

Four people who were cited for driving violations and property crimes must have been awfully surprised when the charges were dismissed by Anoka County District Judge Alan Pendleton late last month.

The reason: The prosecutor representing East Bethel, where the alleged offenses occurred, wasn't in court Aug. 26. Pendleton apparently didn't know why Sean Stokes didn't appear, but a partner with Stokes' law firm said it was a simple miscommunication.

Charges are being re-filed for each case, said attorney Mark Vierling of Eckberg Lammers law firm, which was hired by the city of East Bethel to prosecute cases. Because the cases were originally handled with a citation issued by a police officer, prosecutors must now prepare a formal complaint and have it approved by a judge.

"There will be no additional charge to the public to re-file the charges," Vierling said. "Re-charging cases with a formal complaint is done all the time. It's routine practice."

Eckberg Lammers handles prosecution for cities in Washington County and in Wisconsin. The East Bethel City Council approved the firm as its legal counsel in January and renewed its contract in June, Vierling said.

The dismissed cases involved a 16-year-old cited for speeding, two men driving after revocation of their licenses and having no proof of insurance, and a man cited for damaging property. One of the suspects had been previously arrested for drunken driving and another had been convicted of a felony forgery charge. The man cited for damaging property was required to appear in court.

East Bethel Mayor Richard Lawrence was informed of the dismissals by the Star Tribune. Talking with a representative at Eckberg Lammers, he was told Stokes had contacted Pendleton and "that things were covered" regarding the Aug. 26 court dismissals. Lawrence said he was informed that the charges would be re-filed immediately.

"We wouldn't let people skate on the charges," he said. "The law firm is doing an excellent job for the city and we are benefiting from their expertise in the handling of all legal matters."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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