This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In the Matter of the Welfare of:  J.J.M.



Filed July 9, 2002


Halbrooks, Judge



Ramsey County District Court

File No. JX-01-552521


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)


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


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Ka Vang, Assistant County Attorney, 50 Kellogg Boulevard West, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102  (for respondent)




            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant J.J.M. challenges his adjudication of delinquency for fourth-degree assault, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he assaulted the assistant principal.  Because the evidence was sufficient, we affirm.


            On April 25, 2001, Rodney Wilson, assistant principal at Cleveland Middle School, returned to his office to find appellant J.J.M. and a teacher waiting to talk to him about an argument they had.  Wilson took the teacher into his office to discuss the matter while appellant waited outside.  When appellant tried to talk to Wilson after the teacher left, Wilson told appellant that he wanted to first finish his lunch.

Appellant became agitated and tried to enter Wilson’s office.  When Wilson attempted to close his door, appellant kicked it open, striking Wilson in the chest and head.  Wilson tried to restrain appellant by grabbing him and holding him against a wall, but appellant continued to hit and kick Wilson.

Aaron Rupert, the principal, heard the altercation and found Wilson holding appellant up in the air against a cabinet or wall while appellant grabbed at Wilson’s clothing.  Rupert tried to intervene, but was unsuccessful until Wilson pushed appellant away.  Once Rupert was able to restrain appellant, Rupert asked Wilson to leave the office.  But before Wilson could do so, appellant lunged at Wilson and threw a punch that knocked Wilson’s glasses off and caused a scratch and some swelling.

Respondent filed a petition alleging appellant’s delinquency for fourth-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.2231, subd. 5 (2000).  The trial court adjudicated appellant delinquent and placed him on probation.  Appellant now challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and, in his pro se brief, claims he was denied a fair trial.


When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we examine the record in the light most favorable to the findings and determine whether the fact-finder, acting with due regard for the principles of presumed innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could have reasonably found as it did.  Dale v. State, 535 N.W.2d 619, 623 (Minn. 1995); see also In re Welfare of L.B., 404 N.W.2d 341, 345 (Minn. App. 1987) (applying same standard to juvenile cases).  “It is well established that a conviction can rest upon the testimony of a single credible witness.”  State v. Bliss, 457 N.W.2d 385, 390 (Minn. 1990) (citations omitted).  We leave credibility determinations to the fact-finders because they are “in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses.”  In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1996) (citations omitted).  Thus, we assume the fact-finder believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved all evidence to the contrary.  State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).

Appellant argues that Wilson’s testimony does not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt because no other witness saw who started the altercation and no one noticed any swelling of Wilson’s face or any other injury beyond a very tiny scratch.  Appellant claims that there is no other proof that he inflicted the scratch, and he offers other explanations for how Wilson sustained the injury.  Appellant’s pro se brief reiterates his version of the incident and asserts that he was deprived of a fair trial.

Appellant’s argument on the sufficiency of the evidence is an attack on Wilson’s credibility.  Appellant is correct that the altercation between himself and Wilson was largely unwitnessed.  Both testified as to their explanation of what transpired.  But having listened to both sides, the trial court found Wilson’s testimony to be more credible.  We defer to the fact-finder on a determination of credibility.  See L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d at 396 (deferring to the fact-finder on credibility issues).  In addition, the record supports the trial court’s determination that appellant committed fourth-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.2231, subd. 5 (2000).  The statute provides:

Whoever assaults a school official while the official is engaged in the performance of the official’s duties, and inflicts demonstrable bodily harm, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.



“Assault” includes “the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another” and bodily harm is defined as “physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.”  Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subds. 7 (defining “bodily harm”), 10 (defining “assault”) (2000).  Here, appellant hit the assistant principal while Wilson performed his official duties, causing some swelling and a scratch.  Appellant’s contention that the scratch could be the result of something other than appellant’s punch does not diminish the fact that the evidence supports an adjudication of delinquency for fourth-degree assault.  Finally, after carefully reviewing the record, we find no merit in appellant’s claim of an unfair trial.