The prosecutor's failure to appear might become an issue at the trial of anarchists charged with street disruptions at the GOP convention.
A confidential informer for the FBI was sentenced Monday to 16 days of physical labor and ordered to pay a $900 fine in connection with an early morning confrontation in Minnetrista in January.
Andrew Darst, considered a top FBI informer in the case against eight members of an anarchist group who face trial in September for street disruptions at the 2008 GOP National Convention, received no additional jail time beyond what he had already served when he was sentenced by Hennepin County District Judge Dan Mabley.
The hearing was marked by the unusual absence of prosecutor John Halla, who did not show up for the 9 a.m. sentencing. After waiting a half hour, Mabley said efforts to reach Halla by phone were unsuccessful and proceeded with sentencing. Pat Diamond, deputy county attorney, said later that Halla had a family emergency and by the time he arrived at the courtroom, the hearing was over.
Darst, 30, was arrested for breaking down a door of a house and assaulting two men inside after 2 a.m. on Jan. 11. The incident was unrelated to the RNC investigation. He told police he was worried about his wife, who was inside the house and who told police she was "really drunk."
Darst was convicted in March of third-degree damage to property, a gross misdemeanor, and two misdemeanor counts of assault in the fifth degree. He spent four days in jail after the incident.
Joseph Daly, a law professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, said Mabley's sentence was "pretty lenient" because what Darst did was "extremely dangerous," going into a house and assaulting people.
"Normally, he would have gotten some time in jail beyond the four days," said Daly. "This guy got off pretty light."
Daly said it also was unusual that the prosecutor did not show up and predicted that if Darst testifies at the anarchists' trial, defense attorneys will cite the light sentence and the failure of the prosecutor to appear as indicators that authorities went easy on him in return for favorable testimony.
Jordan Kushner, one of the anarchists' lawyers, also called it a light sentence. "It's self-evident [Darst] used his work as an informant to his benefit to avoid the consequences of his own criminal conduct," he said.
Diamond said that had Halla made it to court on time, he would have asked that Darst serve 180 days in jail, "which usually means work release and electronic home monitoring, assuming the person has a job."
"Would we have liked to have seen more?" Diamond asked. "Yes. Judge Mabley is a good judge and took into account all the circumstances. I wouldn't second-guess."
Patrick Flanagan, Darst's attorney, urged Mabley not to give Darst any more jail time, noting he had no previous convictions. He argued that Darst had been invited to the Minnetrista house and said the gross misdemeanor was based on the cost of the damage he caused.
Flanagan urged Mabley to take into account what Darst did to "help the government," an apparent reference to Darst's work as an informer. Flanagan also said that Darst had volunteered to do sandbagging in Fargo, N.D., when it was hit by serious flooding.
Darst told the judge that he had believed his wife was in danger when he broke into the house. "I realize I did it the wrong way," Darst told Mabley. "I feel horrible about the situation."
Mabley imposed a sentence of 180 days in the workhouse, stayed 160 days of it, gave him credit for four days in jail, and sentenced him to 16 days of physical labor. He also fined him $900.
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382