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Legal Challenges of BOLD Plan Begin Piling Up for Stillwater Area Public Schools

Stillwater Area Public Schools’ legal team is going to be busy in the months following the Board’s decision to approve Superintendent Denise Pontrelli’s BOLD plan. Stillwater parent group 834 VOICE has filed the first of two expected lawsuits against Stillwater Area Public Schools in an attempt to reverse the BOLD plan to close three Marine, Withrow and Oak Park elementary schools. The 834 VOICE group’s attorney Fritz Knaak on Monday filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the Minnesota Court of Appeals seeking to reverse the school board’s decision to close the schools. “The certiorari appeal process exists for direct challenges like this one to a school board’s decision to close schools,” Knaak said. “This particular part of the challenge will have the Appeals Court look at the record the Board had in front of it — and decide whether there was enough evidence in it to justify the decision.”

The appeals court will not offer an opinion of the school board’s interpretation of evidence, Knaak said, but it would determine if there was enough “good evidence to show that the closings were both ‘necessary’ and ‘practicable.’”

The court of appeals petition is the first step of a litigation process that 834 VOICE is bringing against Stillwater Area Public Schools. Continue Reading →

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Charges: Stillwater Teen Became Man’s Online Sex Slave

Criminal charges filed this week against a 19-year-old man from Washington state are incredibly disturbing. Cheyenne Cody Vedaa Foster is accused of keeping a seventh-grader at Stillwater Junior High as a sex slave and controlling her to the point that she physically harmed herself — even though the two never met in person. According to charges filed this week in Washington County District Court, Foster called himself “Hero,” and referred to the girl as “Kitten,” his online sex servant. Detectives are still trying to determine how Foster met the girl, but according to the complaint, the two have been communicating since at least March via text message, social media and daily video chats. According to the complaint:

Police began looking into a report of inappropriate communication between Foster and the 13-year-old girl last spring. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Man Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping, Sexual Assault Charges

A 26-year-old Stillwater man pleaded guilty Wednesday in Washington County District Court to kidnapping and sexually assaulting an intoxicated St. Paul teen. Jeremiah Daniel Johnson, 26, of Stillwater, pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and third-degree criminal sexual conduct of an 18-year-old St. Paul woman. According to the criminal complaint:

Johnson found an 18-year-old woman, intoxicated, passed out and incapacitated, next to a telephone pole on July 5 at the intersection of Edgerton and Case on the East Side of St. Continue Reading →

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Pine Springs Man Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison in Shooting Death of David Frigaard

Bailey Jordan Garcia was sentenced Friday morning to serve 27 years in prison for the second-degree drive by murder of David Robert Frigaard in Mahtomedi. Garcia, 19, of Pine Springs, was charged in January with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Frigaard, a Park Cottage Grove High School art teacher and bar owner. The charge carried a Minnesota Guidelines sentence of 261-367 month sentence. “This was such a senseless crime that it truly boggles the imagination,” Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said in a prepared statement. “The only saving grace is that this case came to a swift resolution so as to give the victim’s family as much closure as the system can provide.”

According to the complaint filed in the case, Garcia, parked near the intersection of Stillwater Road and Mahtomedi Avenue at about 3:30 a.m. saw Frigaard’s truck come up to a stop sign, and he shot at the truck with a 30.06 rifle from his own vehicle before fleeing the area. Continue Reading →

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Dave Eckberg Sentenced to 5 Years’ Probation for Felony Tax Evasion

Dave Eckberg was sentenced to serve five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion charges relating to his work as promoter of Lumberjack Days. Eckberg, 64, entered guilty pleas on May 7 to two felony counts of failing to pay sales and alcohol taxes and one count of failing to pay out-of-state entertainment taxes. Washington County District Judge Susan R. Miles last week sentenced Eckberg to serve five years of probation. If probation is violated, a 15-month prison sentence hangs over Eckberg’s head. Judge Miles also ordered Eckberg to cooperate with the transfer of the ownership of the name “Lumberjack Days” to the city of Stillwater for its future use and ownership by the city. Continue Reading →

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Felony Charges Filed After Pedestrian Hit by Suspected Drunken Driver in Downtown Stillwater

A 26-year-old man was charged with felony criminal operation of a vehicle after hitting a pedestrian on Water Street in downtown Stillwater last weekend. At about 2:20 a.m. July 19,  Stillwater police were patrolling bar close on foot when heard a revving engine and saw a vehicle swerving and speeding onto Water Street from Chestnut just before it hit a pedestrian. Officers started running to their squad cars to stop the truck, when the officers heard a loud crash near the 300 block of Water Street South — and saw the truck hit a man who was standing with a group of people on the road near the Freight House. According to police, the impact violently threw the pedestrian, Ryan Jacoby, 23, of Somerset, Wis., into the air, causing him to spin several times before landing face down on the ground. Jacoby  was taken to Regions Hospital where he was treated for a broken nose, concussion and lacerations on his head and face. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Man Charged with Kidnapping and Criminal Sexual Conduct

A 26-year-old Stillwater man was charged today in Washington County District Court with kidnapping and two counts of criminal sexual conduct. Jeremiah Daniel Johnson, 26, of Stillwater, faces felony charges of kidnapping and 3rd and 4th Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct that allegedly occurred on Sunday, July 5. According to the criminal complaint:

Johnson found an 18-year-old woman, intoxicated, passed out and incapacitated, next to a telephone pole at the intersection of Edgerton and Case in St. Paul. Witnesses told police that Johnson saw the woman passed out on the sidewalk, got out of his truck, picked her up, with her arms dangling “limp and lifeless” and carried her to his truck and drove off with her inside, according to the complaint. Continue Reading →

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Ex-Deputy with Lou Gehrig’s Disease Found Not Legally Responsible in Double Homicide of Lake Elmo Sisters

A Wisconsin jury found a former sheriff’s deputy with Lou Gehrig’s disease not legally responsible for the murder of Ashlee Steele, and her sister, Kacee Tollefsbol of Lake Elmo. Both Ashlee and Kacee were graduates of Stillwater Area High School. Andrew Steele, 40, will be committed for life to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, according to the Associated Press. Following a predisposition investigation by the Department of Health Services, Judge Nicholas McNamara will decide if Steele will be sent to an institution or released. According to the AP, Steele showed little emotion as a Dane County judge read the verdict early Thursday. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Man Charged in Oak Park Heights Murder

A 24-year-old Stillwater man has been charged with second-degree intentional murder in the death of Nils Johnson. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput announced that second-degree intentional murder charges were filed late yesterday against Nathan Nigel Anthony Eldredge, 24, of Stillwater. A warrant for Eldredge’s arrest was entered into the national database and Eldredge was arrested shortly after midnight by authorities in Matteson, Ill. “We are heartened by the very efficient and thorough investigation by law enforcement in this case,” Orput said in a news release. “This office is preparing to extradite Eldredge from Illinois should it become necessary. Continue Reading →

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Lumberjack Days Promoter Dave Eckberg Faces Felony Tax Evasion Charges

Dave Eckberg was charged this week in Washington County District Court with three felony counts of tax evasion relating to his work as promoter of Lumberjack Days. Last year, Eckberg was convicted of issuing worthless checks in Washington County District Court. Eckberg, 63, was charged on Wednesday with two felony counts of failing to pay sales and alcohol taxes and one count of failing to pay out-of-state entertainment taxes. The charges are a result of an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Revenue Criminal Investigation Division. That investigation alleges that Eckberg owes more than $100,000 in sales and alcohol tax debt. Continue Reading →

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Pine Springs Teen Charged in Shooting Death of Park High School Teacher, Frigaard’s Owner

Bailey Jordan Garcia was charged Monday morning with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Park Cottage Grove High School art teacher and bar owner David Frigaard. Garcia, 19, of Pine Springs was charged in Washington County District Court with the unintentional killing during a drive-by shooting, which carries a Minnesota Guidelines sentence of 261-367 month sentence. Bail was set at $2 million. According to the complaint filed in the case, Garcia, parked near the intersection of Stillwater Road and Mahtomedi Avenue at about 3:30 a.m. saw Frigaard’s truck come up to a stop sign, and he shot at the truck with a 30.06 rifle from his own vehicle before fleeing the area. Garcia crashed his vehicle and was later arrested by Washington County Sheriff’s deputies. Continue Reading →

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Update: Former Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Former Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki pleaded guilty today in federal court to conspiracy to defraud the United States by preparing and filing tax forms that he knew to be fraudulent. Harycki, 51, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Ann D. Montgomery in Minneapolis. “As a former mayor, Mr. Harycki understands, better than most, the magnitude and impact of the fraud he helped to perpetrate,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in a news release. “By his guilty plea, Mr. Harycki has taken responsibility for his actions, but that does not excuse his criminal acts. This defendant not only violated his accounting license by covering up a tax fraud, he eroded the trust of the residents of Stillwater, who elected him to a position of high public office.”

Harycki will serve between three and four years in prison and will pay fines of between $3,000 and $30,000, according to the plea agreement. Continue Reading →

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Former Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki Due in Court on Federal Fraud Charges this Week

Former Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki will make his first appearance in federal court this week on felony fraud charges. Harycki’s first appearance, arraignment and plea hearing is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 15 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Harycki faces charges of fraudulent accounting that allegedly helped conceal more than $10 million in tax liabilities for a Twin Cities area health care business. Harycki, 51, the owner of Customized Payroll Solutions in Stillwater, was charged last month by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with conspiracy to defraud the federal government of millions of dollars by preparing and filing tax forms he knew to be fraudulent. Continue Reading →

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Update: Former Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki Charged with Fraud by U.S. Attorney’s Office

A day after being recognized for his service by the Stillwater City Council, former mayor Ken Harycki was charged in federal court with fraudulent accounting that allegedly helped conceal millions of dollars in tax liabilities for a Twin Cities area health care business. Harycki, 51, the owner of Customized Payroll Solutions in Stillwater, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government of more than $10 million by preparing and filing tax forms he knew to be fraudulent, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Thurlee Belfrey and his brother, Roylee, were each indicted on Medicaid fraud charges on Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune. The two men own and manage multiple health care businesses, including Royal Health Care, Model Health Care and Integrated Health Services, Inc.

Harycki began doing accounting work for the Belfreys and their companies in 2007, and he came under an IRS investigation in October 2012, according to the Star Tribune sourcing a federal search warrant affidavit. Harycki allegedly hid the fraud by using numerous bank accounts, making numerous money transfers per day between the bank accounts and creating business bank accounts in other people’s names. Continue Reading →

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Oak Park Heights Prisoner Pleads Guilty to Killing Fellow Inmate

An inmate at Oak Park Heights prison pleaded guilty on Thursday to second-degree murder in the strangulation death of a fellow inmate. Benjamin H. Beck, 40, was immediately sentenced to serve the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. According to the criminal complaint, Beck entered the cell of Shane L. Cooper, 30, on Dec. 2 with a shoelace he had taken from a pair of tennis shoes and strangled him after learning Cooper was incarcerated for molesting a child. The two inmates reportedly were friends until Beck learned why Cooper was sent to prison. Continue Reading →

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Update: Dave Eckberg Sentenced to Serve 1 Year of Probation in Lumberjack Days Case

 

Stillwater Lumberjack Days promoter Dave Eckberg was sentenced to serve one year of probation with 240 hours of community service Friday morning in Washington County District Court. Judge Susan Miles also fined Eckberg $1,000 and ordered restitution to be paid in full. All victims in the case have been paid back. In February, Eckberg pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated theft by check for more than $35,000 in relation to nonpayment of vendors and business partners during the 2011 Lumberjack Days festival. “This was a painstaking prosecution and investigation,” Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said in a statement. Continue Reading →

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St. Paul Man Sent to Prison for Drunken Driving Crash that Injured Sobczak Sisters

 

A 46-year-old St. Paul man will serve prison time for drunken driving crash that seriously injured two Lake Elmo sisters on Highway 5 in August 2012. Jon Wentz was sentenced to serve 33 months in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular operation in Washington County District Court. Five other charges were dismissed as a part of the plea deal. Wentz was charged with eight felonies after an extensive crash reconstruction conducted by the Minnesota State Patrol. Continue Reading →

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Washington County Attorney Pete Orput Announces Bid for Re‐Election

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput announced his bid for re-election as county attorney late Sunday night. Orput joined three of his metro area colleagues—Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Carver County Attorney Mark Metz— in making announcements for re-election bids in 2014. All four county attorneys took office in 2011, and have forged “productive partnerships and coalitions to address public safety and criminal justice issues,” the announcement reads. Orput, Palumbo, Choi and Metz collaborate regularly, which has resulted in a “distinguished record of accomplishments.”

Each of the four first-term county attorneys have established veteran’s court or veteran’s justice initiatives, taken steps to combat the sex trafficking of children and  taken a stand against elder abuse. Orput will be seeking his second term in office. Continue Reading →

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Update: Lumberjack Days Promotor’s Theft Trial Reset for March 24

 

UPDATE:

Dave Eckberg’s felony theft case won’t begin this week after all. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday morning, with the trial happening this week, but Eckberg is apparently planning to hire a new attorney, and requested a continuance of the trial until March 24. “Mr. Eckberg apparently wants to hire a new attorney, and hinted that he will move forward with representation by Earl Gray,” Washington County Attorney Pete Orput told Stillwater Current Monday morning. “We look forward to our day in court. We are not going to back down. Continue Reading →

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