Former township supervisor to dispute theft charges
CLOQUET - A former township supervisor accused of theft is challenging whether there is sufficient evidence to charge her. Former Atkinson Township Supervisor Traci Ann Juntunen is charged with three counts of felony theft by swindle for allegedl...
CLOQUET - A former township supervisor accused of theft is challenging whether there is sufficient evidence to charge her.
Former Atkinson Township Supervisor Traci Ann Juntunen is charged with three counts of felony theft by swindle for allegedly submitting false claims for reimbursement while serving as township supervisor. Although the monetary amount is not large for the alleged crimes - $300 for a supposed Energy Efficiency Small Grants Program grant application; $250 for a claimed deposit on blueprints for a new township building as well as a $50 claim for a meeting in McGregor with draftsman Dave Johnson - they are charged as felonies because they involve public money.
Juntunen was elected to the Atkinson Township Board in March 2007 and served until her resignation was accepted in February of this year.
Wednesday morning Juntunen's attorney, John Steven Lind, made a demand for a contested omnibus hearing in Carlton County District Court. Lind cited three reasons for the contested omnibus: To challenge the issue of probable cause (evidence), to challenge statements Juntunen made to the investigating sheriff's deputy and, last, to challenge four Spreigl notices filed by prosecuting attorney Leslie E. Beiers. (Beiers, who is an assistant St. Louis County Attorney, is prosecuting the case at the request of the Carlton County Attorney's office because they claim a conflict of interest.)
A Spreigl notice alerts the court and the defending attorney that the state intends to offer evidence regarding previous convictions or "bad acts" such as crimes of dishonesty, Carlton County Attorney Thomas Pertler explained to the Pine Journal. Spreigl evidence cannot be offered as proof of guilt in the current crime, but may be admitted for the limited purpose of showing motive, intent, absence of mistake or accident, identity, or a common scheme or plan, according to www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us .
What specific instances Beiers is hoping to cite are a mystery for now, because the Spreigl notices were not included in the court documents Wednesday and Beiers was not available for comment. However, Juntunen has a number of civil judgments on her record in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and at least one criminal case in Wisconsin, where Juntunen was found guilty of theft after admitting to altering the amount on a check written to her from $9,000 to $19,000 and then cashing it.
The current charges against Juntunen came about after the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) investigated township disbursements for 2009 at the request of the town board after the board chairman, Terry Dearborn, was suspicious of the validity of some of the receipts Juntunen had presented for reimbursement during the previous year.
At Wednesday's hearing, Lind also requested the township not erase the recording made of its Aug. 10 meeting, where he claimed there was discussion of the Juntunen theft case. There were some 15 township residents and others sitting in the courtroom for the hearing.
"There may be things discussed there that affect probable cause and possibly this hearing," Lind said.
Outside the courtroom, Dearborn said the only discussion of the Juntunen case came when he stood up and informed people in attendance that he was the one who went to the sheriff asking to press charges. He did not know if the tape of the meeting was still intact, noting that it is normally used to help the clerk with writing minutes and not as a record of the meeting itself.
Beiers also requested Wednesday that Juntunen present herself to the County Jail to be booked and fingerprinted, something that hadn't happened yet.
Judge Robert E. Macaulay Jr. set the contested omnibus hearing for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 17, setting aside an hour and a half for the hearing, which will include testimony.