A Dakota County employee pleaded not guilty Thursday in district court after being accused of improperly handling government information about a case involving Reps. Tara Mack and Tim Kelly.
Thomas Berry, 45, will have a pre-trial hearing Feb. 11. He faces a possible 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine in the misdemeanor case in which prosecutors say he forwarded information from his work to his home computer. The information concerned two Republican lawmakers, Mack and Kelly, after they were cited for nuisance after a park ranger found them “making out” in a parked car in Eagan.
Berry's attorney Phil Villaume sent the Star Tribune a statement in which he said he is confident the case will be resolved. "The law presumes Mr.Berry is innocent of the charge against him, and he intends to exercise his due process rights as the case proceeds," the statement reads.
"This a complicated case, and these type charges are rarely seen and prosecuted criminally. Most often these type cases are handles through civil litigation," Villaume said.
Berry was one of 33 government employees who received via e-mail an Aug. 26 report that detailed “parks activity,” according to the charges against him. It included details about the Mack and Kelly incident, among others.
Berry printed out the report and also forwarded a copy to his home computer, according to the complaint filed by prosecutor Michael Molenda in Dakota County Court. Berry works for the Dakota County Water Resources Department.
Berry later told investigators he was interested in sharing two of the entries with his wife, according to the complaint. His wife, Kristin, is a piano teacher in Apple Valley.
Nancy Hohbach, Dakota County’s employee relations director, recently said Dakota County has launched internal employment and data practices investigations into the Berry’s handling of private data. “Information related to these civil investigations is private at this time,” she said.