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Busy day at Murray County Court

SLAYTON -- During a busy Monday in Murray County District Court, Judge David Christensen presided over hearings, sentencings and pleas from some new faces and a few familiar ones.

Richard Mortensen, charged in late October with test refusal, terroristic threats, fourth-degree assault of a peace officer and more, accepted an agreement with the state, pleading guilty to refusing to submit to chemical testing after his arrest. The tentative agreement is for 42 months in prison, with credit for time served since late October. The exact sentence will depend on the results of a presentencing investigation and whether or not he will be charged with a probation violation.

"How many times have you been arrested for driving impaired?" Judge Christensen asked Mortensen.

"I don't know," he replied. "I don't keep track."

Court records show Mortensen has been convicted of at least three driving while impaired (DWI) charges, and had numerous others dismissed in plea bargains.

Christensen also accepted a guilty plea from Craig Kevin Rolfes, who had received his 10th DWI, according to attorney Larry Lucht. His last DWI case was in 1993, but he was convicted of disorderly conduct in 2005. Rolfes pleaded guilty Monday to a fourth-degree DWI charge and driving after cancellation-inimical to public safety, and was given a stay of imposition and two years of unsupervised probation. He was also fined more than $1,000. Rolfes was given unsupervised probation because his attorney, Lynn Johnson, requested it since Rolfes is scheduled to work out of state in the near future.

Earlier in the day, Christensen sentenced Scott Douglas Johnson to serve 10 days in jail for a probation violation, heard pleas of not guilty from a husband and wife, Denise and Oscar Bishop, accused of theft and receiving stolen property in connection with a burglary at the Buffalo Ridge Bar in Lake Wilson, and presided over the first appearance of Sandra Jayne Boltjes, accused of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Christensen also saw another husband and wife team, Josh and Gretchen Scott DeGuara of Avoca, who were charged in mid-November with theft of a propane tank from a neighbor's house, which they had allegedly hooked up to their own home for heat. Josh DeGuara has his next hearing on that charge and an unrelated felony count of receiving stolen property on Jan. 10. His attorney, Stephen Ferrazzano, said he plans to argue probable cause on the stolen property case, in which DeGuara allegedly had possession of equipment that had been stolen from the Avoca Fire Department.

DeGuara's criminal background includes recent theft and dishonored check convictions in Minnesota, and a record in California that includes charges for theft, receiving stolen goods and impersonating a fireman.

According to former acquaintances, he has also impersonated a U.S. Marine and a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, but has never served in the military or on any fire department.

Gretchen DeGuara, who had already made an appearance on the theft charge and told the court she planned to retain private council, showed up without an attorney. She told Christensen she had spoken with a private attorney, who wanted more than she could pay for representation. She was approved for a public defender and will make her next court appearance on the theft charge Jan. 5.

She also has a drug-related case pending in Murray County District Court. Her extensive criminal record includes accusations of burglary, theft, property damage, assault and receiving stolen property.

Kassandra Wallenstein, who has a variety of convictions, charges and pending cases in the Murray County court system, made an appearance on charges of fleeing a peace officer and obstructing the legal process.

She was lectured by Christensen on his familiarity with her various cases.

"One of the last things you want is to have the judge to recognize you," he told Wallenstein. "I'm bad with faces and remembering people, but I know you have been in my courtroom enough that I know who you are."

Wallenstein pleaded guilty to a probation violation and admitted to leaving an inpatient treatment facility before she was discharged. According to her conditions of release, if she left the facility, she was to report to jail within 24 hours.

When asked why she left, Wallenstein told Christensen she was to have been sent to a halfway house in the Twin Cities and "got scared."

"I told them I wasn't fond of the idea of a halfway house," she reported, adding that her mother is ill and she wants to spend time with her.

Wallenstein was given a stay of imposition, sentenced to an additional 30 days in jail and an updated assessment, and told by Christensen to follow the recommendations of the assessment, even if they included a stay at a halfway house.