This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






State of Minnesota,





Kenneth James Matteson,



Filed May 30, 2000


Toussaint, Chief Judge



Stearns County District Court

 File No. K9981817



Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Robert A. Stanich, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103 and


Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, 705 Courthouse Square, Suite 448, St. Cloud, MN  56303-4773 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann Brom McCaughan, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

            Appellant Kenneth James Matteson appeals his conviction for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting Spreigl evidence of appellant’s two prior convictions for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting this Spreigl evidence where the state’s case consisted primarily of victim’s testimony, we affirm.


            A trial court should not admit evidence of prior crimes to prove character in order to show the defendant acted in conformity with the prior crimes.  Minn. R. Evid. 404(b) (1998).  But a trial court may admit evidence of other crimes to show motive, intent, absence of mistake or accident, identity, or a common plan or scheme.  Id.  Other crimes evidence is frequently referred to as Spreigl evidence after State v. Spreigl, 272 Minn. 488, 139 N.W.2d 167 (1965).  A trial court will not admit Spreigl evidence in a criminal case unless:

(1)   notice is given that the state intends to use the evidence; (2) the state clearly indicates what the evidence is being offered to prove; (3) the evidence is clear and convincing that the defendant participated in the other offense; (4) the Spreigl evidence is relevant and material to the state’s case; and (5) the probative value of the Spreigl evidence is not outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.


State v. Kennedy, 585 N.W.2d 385, 389 (Minn. 1998).

            “A defendant who claims the trial court erred in admitting evidence bears the burden of showing the error and any resulting prejudice.”  Id. at 389; State v. Steinbuch, 514 N.W.2d 793, 799 (Minn. 1994).  Unless abuse of discretion is clearly shown, we will not reverse a trial court’s decision to admit evidence of other crimes.  State v. DeWald, 464 N.W.2d 500, 503 (Minn. 1991); State v. Scruggs, 421 N.W.2d 707, 715 (Minn. 1988).

            This court must determine whether the trial court abused its discretion in finding the evidence met the five-prong Spreigl test.  Appellant conceded the first four prongs of the Spreigl test, so the only disputed prong is whether the probative value of the Spreigl evidence was outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.  Appellant argues that the trial court erred when it allowed the state to introduce evidence of prior convictions for criminal sexual conduct because any probative value of the evidence was outweighed by its potential prejudicial effect.

            In weighing the probative value of Spreigl evidence against the potential for unfair prejudice, the trial court must consider how necessary the evidence is to the state’s case.  State v. Berry, 484 N.W.2d 14, 17 (Minn. 1992); State v. Billstrom, 276 Minn. 174, 178-79, 149 N.W.2d 281, 284 (1967).  The trial court determined that the state would have a weak case because it was basically the victim’s word against appellant’s word.  Specifically, the court stated:

the reason for Spreigl in this case is I anticipate this is a “he said, she said.” It makes more sense to me, if you sit and think about it, this is exactly the kind of case that Spreigl shouldn’t be in.  I’m introducing the Spreigl because the appellate courts say that I should consider the weakness of the case and allow it if in fact the case is weak.


            Appellant argues that the case was not weak because (1) the victim’s parents testified that appellant had the opportunity to commit this crime and that the victim stopped hugging appellant during 1997; (2) a police officer testified to the victim’s two consistent statements; and (3) appellant admitted he made a sexual statement in the victim’s presence.  This additional evidence does not change the “he said, she said” nature of this case.  Under these circumstances, the trial court’s determination that this was going to be a weak case was not an abuse of discretion.  See State v. Landin, 472 N.W.2d 854, 860 (Minn. 1991) (holding trial court properly admitted Spreigl evidence, despite great potential for prejudice, where evidence was weak due to no eyewitness and lack of physical evidence). 

            The trial court recognized that the evidence of appellant’s prior convictions was potentially prejudicial, but it also determined that the Spreigl evidence was “probably the most powerful and persuasive evidence in this case.”  Appellant argues the Spreigl evidence was overly prejudicial because of the similarity between his prior convictions and the charge for which he was being tried.  However, this similarity makes the evidence highly probative.  Often evidence that is very probative is also prejudicial, but the question under Minn. R. Civ. P. 403 is whether the evidence is unfairly prejudicial.  State v. Frisinger, 484 N.W.2d 27, 32 (Minn. 1992). 

            The record shows that the trial court carefully balanced the probative value and the risk of unfair prejudice in light of the state’s need for the evidence.  And when the trial court decided to admit the evidence, it took great pains to limit the risk of prejudice.  The trial court acted within its discretion in allowing the Spreigl evidence in this case.  See State v. Shamp, 422 N.W.2d 520, (“[T]his court frequently has upheld the use of Spreigl evidence in cases of criminal sexual misconduct which demonstrated the defendant engaged in similar sexual misconduct with other victims.”) 525 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. June 10, 1988).; State v. Spencer, 366 N.W.2d 656, 660 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding evidence of prior sexual misconduct admissible to show common scheme in cases involving sex crimes against minors), review denied (Minn. July 11, 1985),


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.