MANKATO -- A Blue Earth County has denied a motion to dismiss charges against a Lake Crystal man charged with criminal sexual conduct.
28-year-old Steve Campbell faces five felony counts of 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct for his relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The charges claim Campbell, who was the female's high school basketball coach, was in a position of authority over the girl.
The defense sought to dismiss the charges outright for a lack of probable cause, to supress statements and evidence obtained during the investigation, and asked for a change of venue and a gag order. The prosecution asked the court to order an upward sentencing departure in the event of a conviction.
In his order, Judge George Harrelson specifically denied the defense motions to suppress evidence seized during a vehicle search and Campbell's statements to investigators. He also denied the motion to dismiss the charges. The motion for a change of venue and a gag order are reserved at this time.
Harrelson denied the prosecution's request for an upward sentencing departure.
Position of Authority Still In Question
Judge George Harrelson noted that the standard for probable cause for the charges is lower than the beyond-a reasonable doubt standard necessary for a conviction. The position of authority element is critical to the prosecution's case because without it there would be no crime.
The definition of "position of authority" is contained in criminal statue and includes criterial such as being a parent or acting the the place of a parent. It also includes a person charged with any responsibility for the health, welfare or supervisionof a child.
The question brought to the court by the defense is that while Campbell had been the female's coach in the past, he currently wasn't under contract for the upcoming season.
Harrelson's brief noted while the issue of "position of authority" had been analyzed in several Minnesota appellate cases, none involved a basketball coach, out of season, who is not a school teacher.
In addition to being her coach, the prosecution claimed Campbell was also in a position of authority because he was her employer and also acted as a counselor for the girl. Harrelson rejected both of those arguments, saying they weren't convinced the girl was employed at the time.
When it comes to the basketball coach argument, the court writes "there is little doubt both parties understood the defendant to be C.P.'s (the alleged victim) basketball coach, both for the previous and upcoming seasons," But Harrelson notes the fact Campbell was not also a teacher adds "questions to what authority he had over C.P."
Harrelson writes there was not evidence Campbell intended to terminate his coach/player relationship witht he girl and thus writes based on the probable cause standard, the issue can be put before a jury.
Facts of the Case Whether or not the 28-year-old Campbell and the 17-year-old student at Lake Crystal-Welcome Memorial has a sexual relationship isn't in dispute. Court records document five separate incidents of consensual sex.
The first two happened on September 27, 2010 at Campbell's residence and then later after a high school football game in Campbell's pickup up truck in a farm field. The thrid happened on October 1, 2010, again in the defendants pickup truck behind the Lake Crystal Co-op. The fourth and fifth were both on October 3, 2010 in his pickup and later in car belonging to his father.
Lake Crystal police began the investigation on October 8, 2011 and Blue Earth County Sheriff investigators were brought into the case three days later. That's when the girl, who described Campbell as her coach, was interviewed by law enforcement. That same day, Campbell agreed to talk to investigators at his father's rural Lake Crystal residence. Following the interview, Campbell was taken into custody.
Statement Is In The defense argued he was not sufficently advised of his Miranda rights during his squad car interview by law enforcement.
Despite being advised he was no "in-custody" and being advised he didn't have to talk to them, Campbell was read his Miranda warning.
Harrelson writes he is "amply satisfied" Campbell fully understood his decision to answer police questions was voluntary. The court did note it was "troubling" officers didn't ask Campbell if he wanted to answer questions after the warning was read and before questioning began.
Evidence from Vehicle Search Is In The defense was seeking to exclude five items taken from Campbell's pickup truck.
The 1998 Ford F-150 was seized following Campbell's interview with investigators and his arrest.
A search warrant was applied for and was granted. Seized from the pickup were a "grey lip cover", gray cloth upholstery from the seat, a sweatshirt, shirt and documents from a "black vinyl bible bag."
Judge Harrelson notes the search did not occur until after the warrant was issued and the validy of the warrant has not been challenged.
Prosecution Loses Plan To Seek Stiff Sentence Judge Harrelson rejected the prosecution notice to seek an upward departure in sentencing based on aggravation factors.
The aggravating factors were based on the alleged victim's vulnerability due to age, infirmity or reduced physical or mental capacity.
Harrelson says the girl's age is an element of the charges and can't alone provide for an aggravated factor. He adds that no evidence regarding the girl's reduced physical or mental capacity was presented.
Change of Venue The defense argued for a change of venue based on pretrial publicity and statements made to the press, including a video interview Assistant County Attorney Chris Rovney gave to Three Eagles Radio News.
Judge Harrelson wrote that the request was "premature" but essentially could be considered again at a later time.
Next Step A motion hearing has been set for Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. at the Blue Earth County Justice Center.
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