This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Joseph Dale Kruger,
Filed August 29, 2006
Olmsted County District Court
File No. K9-01-2141
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800
Raymond F. Schmitz, Olmsted County Attorney, David F. McLeod, Assistant County Attorney, Government Center, 151 Fourth Street Southeast, Rochester, MN 55904 (for respondent)
John Stuart, State Public Defender, Lydia Villalva Lijó, Assistant
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Randall, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from his conviction of
crimes, Joseph Kruger challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to corroborate
the accomplice testimony that he conspired in the purchase, transport, and
planned distribution of 201 pounds of marijuana from
F A C T S
The state charged Joseph Kruger with
five controlled-substance crimes after conducting a controlled delivery of 201
pounds of marijuana discovered in a truck en route to
a police interview, Laqua stated that the truck belonged to Roger Bennett; that
he had picked up the truck and the marijuana in
At the direction of the
During the recorded conversation,
Laqua and Bennett made repeated references to Joseph Kruger by his nickname,
Bobo. After mentioning that Kruger had
been “short a lot of money” and that “some bad numbers [were] mentioned,” they
discussed Kruger’s gambling addiction and observed that he had “been takin[g]
money for the last two or three months.”
Bennett indicated that only he and Kruger “had access to the money”;
that they were paying too much for local marijuana; that, in a recent phone
conversation, Kruger had expressed reluctance to deal with their
After listening to the conversation, police officers entered Bennett’s home. They arrested both Bennett and Laqua and then conducted a search of the residence. Police released Laqua a short time later.
When Laqua was released, he got in touch with Kruger and asked him to drive Laqua to Culver’s home to get Laqua’s vehicle. On the way to Culver’s home, Kruger apparently realized that Laqua had been arrested and began tearing up papers and notes and throwing them out the window of his vehicle. When Laqua arrived at Culver’s home, police officers were conducting surveillance. Laqua told the officers that he had seen Kruger discard the papers and helped the officers locate them on the roadway.
Police were also conducting surveillance outside Kruger’s home. They observed Kruger drive by his home several times without stopping, and, one of those times, the police concluded that he had noticed the surveillance. The police obtained a search warrant for Kruger’s home and executed it while Kruger and his girlfriend were present. During the search, they discovered marijuana cigarettes in plastic bags in a Tupperware container, an electronic scale, and a black duffel bag containing about ten ounces of marijuana. In a search of Kruger’s person, incident to his arrest, they found a small amount of marijuana, about $3,200 in cash, and a bank receipt showing a balance of $14,000.
Based on this evidence, the state charged Kruger with first- and second-degree conspiracy to commit controlled-substance crime, first-degree controlled-substance crime (sale), fifth-degree controlled-substance crime (possession with intent to distribute), and fifth-degree controlled-substance crime (possession). At Kruger’s trial to the court, the state relied on the testimony of the police and BCA officers who were involved in the controlled delivery, execution of the search warrant, and surveillance of Kruger’s home. The state also called Laqua as a witness and introduced evidence obtained as a result of search warrants.
In his testimony, Laqua admitted
that he had lied to
The defense presented testimony from
Bennett and from Kruger’s girlfriend.
Bennett testified that Kruger and the others drove to
The district court found Kruger guilty of all five charges and sentenced him to the presumptive guidelines sentence of eighty-one months for conspiracy to commit first-degree controlled-substance crime. The court concluded that the remaining counts were part of the same behavioral incident and did not impose an additional sentence. Kruger appeals his convictions.
D E C I S I O N
appeal raises the single issue of whether the nonaccomplice evidence was
sufficient to corroborate the accomplice testimony underlying Kruger’s
convictions. The state does not dispute
that Laqua was an accomplice, and Kruger concedes that the evidence establishes
that he is guilty of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime for possession of
marijuana obtained in the search of his residence. The other fifth-degree controlled-substance
conviction of possession with intent to distribute does not rely on accomplice
testimony, and, thus, any challenge to that conviction is implicitly
waived. See State ex rel. Morrow v. LaFleur, 590 N.W.2d 787, 796 n.15 (
evidence, which may be direct or circumstantial, is viewed in a light most
favorable to the verdict. State v. Johnson, 616 N.W.2d 720, 727 (
record contains significant circumstantial and physical evidence that connects
Kruger to the controlled-substance crimes and provides corroboration of the
accomplice testimony. Kruger’s
girlfriend, a defense witness, testified that she and Kruger drove with the
Taken together, the large amount of marijuana in Kruger’s home, the recorded conversation about Kruger’s diversion of funds from the marijuana operation, and the approximate amount of $17,000 at Kruger’s home shortly after Laqua discovered that amount missing from the drug-purchase money corroborate the accomplice testimony that Kruger was involved in the financial management of the marijuana operation that planned and partially executed the transfer and intended distribution of the 201 pounds of marijuana from Arizona.
Finally, Kruger’s conduct after he apparently learned of Laqua’s arrest was suspicious and unexplained. Police, assisted by Laqua, retrieved scraps of paper containing numbers that Kruger reportedly threw from his vehicle window. The police, who were maintaining surveillance at Kruger’s home, saw Kruger repeatedly driving past his house without stopping or entering the residence.
The evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, provides more than adequate evidence for the district court to conclude than the nonaccomplice testimony and the other evidence sufficiently corroborates the accomplice testimony that supported Kruger’s convictions.