A Minnesota political consultant is scheduled to stand trial on accusations that he assaulted his then-girlfriend and tried to stop her from calling 911 during a dispute in 2017.
Jonathan Aanestad, 65, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault and one count each of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and gross misdemeanor interfering with a 911 call.
Aanestad declined the prosecution’s offer Tuesday morning to plead guilty to one count of disorderly conduct in exchange for a stay of imposition for one year. Under the offer, the count would be dismissed if he successfully completed probation.
A jury was still being selected as of Tuesday.
“I’ve been falsely accused of this crime,” Aanestad said in a message late Monday night. “I have an airtight alibi. I will be acquitted.”
Aanestad most recently served as a spokesman for former GOP state Rep. Jim Newberger in his unsuccessful race against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar last year.
According to a 2015 Star Tribune article detailing his legal debts regarding civil disputes with neighbors, Aanestad was tapped as Republican Party spokesman in 2009, but he quit after just one day and worked instead as a consultant for several years through Strother Communications Group. He has worked as a consultant to former state Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Wayzata.
He also served as a member of an advisory committee for Minnesota Expo 2023, which tried to lure the World’s Fair to Minnesota.
According to the criminal complaint: On Sept. 3, 2017, Orono police were called to the 3100 block of North Shore Drive on a report of a domestic assault. An officer who arrived at the scene about 11 p.m. spoke with a woman who said she had been dating Aanestad for about a year. She told police that they had been in a physical fight in the garage that night and that he chased her around the garage when she tried to leave.
The woman said she was in her car trying to call 911 when he allegedly intervened and kicked the vehicle.
“Mr. Aanestad grabbed her car keys and would not let her leave,” the charges said. “Mr. Aanestad came in through the passenger side of her vehicle and grabbed her cellphone from her hand, cutting her on one of her fingers.”
The woman also alleged that he grabbed her by her forearms, causing pain.
An officer at the scene photographed the woman’s bleeding finger and tried to see if Aanestad was in the home but received no answer at the door, the complaint said.
Aanestad’s defense is expected to argue that he could not have committed the alleged crimes because he was at a restaurant at Lake Minnetonka at the time, about a mile-and-a-half from the scene.
“Mr. Aanestad was at Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge at the time, having ordered food and/or drinks … and paid for his purchase at 11:16 p.m.,” his public defender wrote in a court memorandum. “It is not possible for Mr. Aanestad to travel from the residence to Lord Fletcher’s, order, be served, and pay for his purchase in the elapsed time.”
Aanestad first went to trial on the case on Dec. 17, 2018, but a last-minute maneuver by prosecutor Steven Tallen delayed the proceeding until this month.
The trial is expected to last two days.