A Hennepin County judge Thursday dismissed a criminal complaint accusing a City Hall veteran of records misuse, agreeing with a defense attorney that the charges were too vague.
The decision is a hiccup in the case against Tom Deegan, a 37-year city employee who was in charge of housing inspections when charges were filed against him last September.
The ruling doesn't mean Deegan is off the hook. Judge Laurie Miller said the prosecution has seven days to file a new complaint.
The prosecutor, James Jerskey, said Thursday that he will soon submit a more specific document.
In its initial charges, the St. Paul city attorney's office, which is handling the case because of potential conflicts of interest, said Deegan repeatedly accessed driver's license records without an authorized purpose over several years.
In addition to noting the lack of detail, Deegan's attorney, Paul Engh, argued that his client was being selectively prosecuted, because more than 40 city employees had abused their access to records. Miller wrote that the defense had not sufficiently proved this point, however.
The judge also ruled that because of the statute of limitations, Deegan can only be charged for offenses dating to 2009. Prosecutors initially said the misuse stretched back to 2005.
The driver's license database, which contains photographs, addresses and driving records on Minnesotans, is protected by state and federal law against unauthorized use. Misuse of driver's license records by public employees is common in Minnesota, state records show, but Deegan is one of few people to face criminal charges.
Engh argued that he could not adequately prepare a defense because the prosecution did not provide the dates and times of alleged misuse. Deegan had authorized work reasons to make Driver and Vehicle Services queries.
"By simply alleging that Defendant made unauthorized inquiries over this time period ... the complaint is too vague as to date and time to put Defendant on sufficient notice of the charges made against him, and to allow him to prepare a defense," Miller wrote.
Deegan ended his long career with the city, which included a stint as deputy chief of the Fire Department, in January.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper