Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 3, 2003

Judge rejects Borrell's request for dismissal

By Julie Yurek

Representative Dick Borrell's request to dismiss his case was soundly rejected by Wright County Judge Stephen Halsey Oct. 8.

Borrell is charged with two gross misdemeanor counts of false political campaign advertising relating to the 2002 fall election in which he was elected. He pleaded not guilty at the contested omnibus hearing this summer.

Borrell's attorney, Mark Wersal, requested that the case be dismissed at the contested omnibus hearing this summer for three reasons: improper statements made to the grand jury, the constitutionality of the statute with which he is charged, and no probable cause.

In Halsey's order and memorandum, he addressed Wersal's claims.

Halsey determined that there is probable cause that Borrell committed the offenses charged by indictment.

"Whether the statements were true will be determined by the jury from the objective facts," he stated. "There is probable cause to believe that said statements were made, knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth, to falsely convey that Mr. (Darren) Knight had been criminally charged by prosecuting authorities."

Regarding Wersal's argument that the statute he is charged with is unconstitutional, he believes "the defendant's arguments are without merit."

"This argument was recently rejected by US District Court in Republican Party of Minnesota, Third Congressional District vs. Klobuchar," he said.

Halsey added that the defendant has not shown that the statue violates the equal protection clause.

Halsey's reasons for dismissing Wersal's claim that improper statements were made to the grand jury included "defendant has not demonstrated evidence of prejudice whereby the grand jury instructions were so egregiously misleading or deficient that the fundamental integrity of the indictment process itself is compromised."

He added that the "defense counsel has argued that in a free society with democratic elections, the US Constitution mandates uninhibited discourse and commentary, basically that 'anything goes.' This argument is without merit as the federal district court recently stated. The constitution does not protect the bald-faced political lie," Halsey said.

Borrell allegedly mailed about 11,000 brochures to Wright County residents days before the election that stated criminal charges were filed against his opponent, Darren Knight.

The brochure also included the phrases such as "Wright County Attorney launches a criminal investigation against Darren Knight," and "the Wright County Attorney immediately assigned an investigator due to serious nature of the criminal complaint," according to the order and memorandum.

Borrell told the Herald Journal that he had "no comment" about Halsey's decision.

The case continues on to pre-trial, said prosecuting attorney Michael Thompson of Meeker County.

Thompson is the prosecutor in the case because Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly is a witness in the case, causing a conflict of interest.

The pre-trial was continued from Tuesday to Monday, Nov. 10 due to Wersal, having a different trial set for that date, Thompson said.

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