This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,





Robert Lee Lueck,




Filed October 10, 2000


Harten, Judge


Itasca County District Court

File No. K3-99-218


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


John J. Muhar, Itasca County Attorney, 123 Fourth Street Northeast, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for respondent)


Melissa V. Sheridan, Assistant State Public Defender, 875 Summit Avenue, Room 254, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant, imprisoned for sexually abusing two children, seeks a new trial on the ground that the district court violated appellant’s constitutional rights when it excluded evidence that appellant’s accuser had spoken to a third party about dropping the charges against appellant in exchange for custody of one victim.  Because we see no abuse of discretion, we affirm.



            Appellant Robert Lueck and Bonnie Lueck were married in 1993; they separated in 1996.  In 1999, appellant was charged with criminal sexual conduct with two underage girls: his seven-year-old sister-in-law, R.J., whom he allegedly abused from age four to age six; and his five-year-old daughter, J.L., whom he allegedly abused from age two to age four.

The charges were based on the May 1998 report of appellant’s mother-in-law, Joyce Gotchie, mother of R.J. and grandmother of J.L.  Appellant was then in prison on another matter.  In August 1998, he wrote from prison to Bonnie Lueck that he wanted to divorce her when he was released.

R.J., then eight, and J.L., then six, testified at appellant’s trial.  Gotchie was also a witness.   Appellant sought to introduce evidence that Gotchie had told a third party that she would “drop the charges” if appellant would agree to give custody of J.L. to Bonnie Lueck, J.L.’s mother and Gotchie’s daughter.  The district court required an offer of proof on this evidence, and appellant’s attorney called two witnesses to provide the offer.

The first witness was appellant’s aunt, who lived across the street from Gotchie.  She testified that Gotchie had told her “[t]hat if [appellant] dropped the custody, that she’d just forget about the charge on molestation.”  The second witness was a public defender investigator.  He testified that, when he interviewed Gotchie and Bonnie Lueck, Gotchie related making the statement to appellant’s aunt and Bonnie Lueck showed little interest in obtaining custody of J.L.[1]

The district court refused to admit evidence of Gotchie’s alleged ulterior motive in reporting the abuse.  Appellant claims that the exclusion of this evidence deprived him of his constitutional rights to confront his accuser and to present an effective defense.



            When a defendant challenges the exclusion of evidence as a violation of   constitutional rights, this court reviews the exclusion under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  State v. Gustafson, 379 N.W.2d 81, 84 (Minn. 1985).

In excluding the evidence, the district court noted that whether Gotchie had said she would drop the charges against appellant in exchange for the award of custody of J.L. to Bonnie Lueck was irrelevant for two reasons.  First, as J.L.’s grandmother, Gotchie was not a party to a custody dispute.  Second, there was no evidence that appellant mentioned the divorce that would generate the custody dispute until three months after Gotchie reported the abuse.

The record supports both reasons.  Gotchie is the grandmother of J.L.  Any dispute over J.L.’s custody would involve her father (appellant) and her mother (Bonnie Lueck).  But there is no evidence that Bonnie Lueck said anything about wanting custody of J.L.

The district court’s second reason for finding the evidence irrelevant was that “the time line is not right.”  Appellant implies that Gotchie reported the abuse to acquire some leverage in the custody matter, but Gotchie first reported the abuse in May 1998 and there was no mention of either the custody dispute or the divorce until August 1998.  We conclude that the district court had cause to exercise its discretion to exclude the proffered evidence.

            Moreover, even if the district court had abused its discretion in excluding the evidence, the error would be harmless if we were satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that had the evidence been admitted and its potential fully realized, an average jury would have reached the same verdict.  State v. Post, 512 N.W.2d 99, 102 (Minn. 1994).  We are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury convicted appellant based on his victims’ trial testimony and on their interviews with the social worker.  The verdict was not affected by the excluded testimony, so any error was harmless.


[1] The district court’s view that Bonnie Lueck had no interest either in the prosecution of appellant for sexual abuse or in obtaining custody of J.L. was confirmed by Gotchie’s subsequent testimony that Bonnie Lueck had repeatedly refused to confront appellant and Bonnie Lueck’s own testimony that, although she knew it was her responsibility, she did nothing.