A Burnsville man who leased the house used for a biker gang party and the 22-year-old chaperone of a party for dozens of mostly underage attendees are among the Minnesotans newly charged with violating Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
Ten people were charged this past week with violating the order aimed at curbing COVID-19.
A total of 33 Minnesotans have been charged between the start of March and Tuesday morning with violating the stay-at-home order, which also shuttered nonessential businesses, or, another order prohibiting dine-in service at restaurants and bars.
Both parties that led to citations occurred in Oakdale. Walz’s order mandates that Minnesotans stay home except to obtain medical care or food, among other reasons.
Oakdale police cited a 22-year-old White Bear Lake woman on April 18 after responding to an Oakdale home in the 6000 block of 46th St. N.
“Officers located a large group of people (approx. 30-40) inside the lower level of a building which was an Air B&B [sic] that had been rented for a birthday party,” said the citation against the woman, an alleged chaperone. “The group was mostly juveniles … Officers smelled odor of marijuana throughout the unit and all party goers/chaperones refused to answer door [sic] despite several attempts by Officers.”
On April 17, Oakdale police cited a 46-year-old Burnsville man in connection with a party in the 2700 block of Hudson Boulevard N. He allegedly leased the house.
“Officer arrived at location after viewing a large party of people (25-30) in a biker gang club house drinking, eating food, smoking marijuana and violating the state executive order for social distancing,” said the citation. “Ongoing issue.”
Walz’s stay-at-home order went into effect March 27 and was extended until May 4.
The Oakdale offenses appeared to be credibly charged, said Michael Friedman, executive director of The Legal Rights Center.
“…The remainder [of the new cases] either lack accompanying information or have nothing to do with the governor’s goals,” Friedman said.
Six of the new cases mirrored a trend in previous cases in which police and prosecutors added the charge — a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 — on top of other offenses, from misdemeanor theft to felony stalking and drug counts.
Friedman urged prosecutors to drop the citations from such cases and to refrain from using them as leverage to strike plea deals.
The two remaining cases had no additional counts.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota has criticized the practice of adding the count to other charges as unnecessarily punitive.
The organization has called for education instead of criminalization, noting that misdemeanor convictions can limit a person’s housing and employment opportunities.
Walz and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety have also advocated education before enforcement.
The other cases include:
• A Rosemount man was cited April 15 on top of a disorderly conduct charge.
Rosemount police Chief Mike Dahlstrom said the man was cited after police encountered him seven previous times in the last month for incidents ranging from drug use to fighting, and warned him each time.
The man also has two active felony arrest warrants from two counties, but cannot be booked at the moment due to concerns about COVID-19 behind bars, the chief said.
“This was an absolute last resort,” Dahlstrom said, “and we did everything possible to educate in this situation.”
• A Northfield woman was cited by Albert Lea police April 11 after allegedly stealing items from a store. She was also charged with theft and giving police a false name.
“If they were out buying stuff that were needed, absolutely we would encourage them … but obviously they weren’t abiding by the order,” said Albert Lea police Deputy Chief Darren Hanson.
• A Harris woman was cited April 13 for violating the order. No other counts were filed.
• A St. Paul man was cited April 15 after New Brighton police found him in his vehicle with alleged signs of impairment and two bags of alleged marijuana in the vehicle. He also had a revoked driver’s license.
He was also cited for driving after revocation and drug possession.
• An Eagan man received the charge April 21 on top of two felony counts — stalking and violating a harassment restraining order.
• A St. Cloud man was charged April 16 with the violation on top of misdemeanors driving after revocation and possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony fifth-degree drug possession.
A State Patrol trooper followed him as he allegedly drove away from a “drug house,” the charges said.
• A North Branch man was cited April 13. No other counts were filed.
• A Kerkhoven, Minn. man was charged April 14 with the count on top of misdemeanor possession of synthetic cannabinoids and felony fifth-degree drug possession.
The 33 citations occurred in 17 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Dakota County had the most with nine cases, while Hennepin County had one and Ramsey County had three.
Minneapolis and St. Paul police have not cited anyone for violating the orders.