This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C4-96-257

State of Minnesota,

Respondent,

vs.

Kirsten Tia Lillo,

Appellant.

Filed January 14, 1997

Affirmed.

Crippen, Judge

Blue Earth County District Court

File No. K395554

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Minnesota Attorney General, Alison E. Colton, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Ross E. Arneson, Blue Earth County Attorney, Government Center, 410 South Fifth Street, P.O. Box 3129, Mankato, MN 56002 (for Respondent)

John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant State Public Defender 2823 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for Appellant)

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N

CRIPPEN, Judge

Appellant contends that her public assistance fraud conviction was based on an uncorroborated confession in violation of Minn. Stat. § 634.03 (1994). We affirm.

FACTS

In 1992, appellant and her husband, Lenny Lillo, moved into a Mankato apartment. By December 1992, the two separated. Shortly thereafter, appellant applied for AFDC, food stamps, and Medicaid. In February 1993, appellant began receiving rental assistance from the state and by May 1993 appellant had divorced Lillo. Appellant claims that she and Lillo lived in separate residences but acknowledges that eventually the two began to spend more time together, which included Lillo's overnight visits. The state claims that appellant and Lillo lived together continuously from September 1993 until February 1994.

In January 1994, appellant and Lillo signed a lease for a new apartment. Shortly thereafter, appellant contacted the Department of Human Services to indicate that she was moving to Nicollet County. Human Services requested a copy of appellant's new lease, and, after seeing both appellant and Lillo's names on it, initiated a fraud investigation. An investigator arrived unannounced at appellant's apartment in February 1994. When the investigator asked appellant whether Lillo lived there, she answered that he did, and appellant signed forms acknowledging that Lillo "ha[d] been staying" at the apartment. In November 1994, a friend of appellant also signed a statement stating that, to the best of her knowledge, Lillo had been living in appellant's apartment from November or December 1993 to February 1994.

Following a two-day trial, the jury found appellant guilty of wrongfully obtaining public assistance, theft, and perjury. The sole issue before the jury was whether Lillo resided with appellant from September 1993 through February 1994. At trial, appellant claimed that the investigator coerced her into confessing and that he dictated the confession. Further, both Lillo and his father claimed that Lillo had been living at home with his parents.

D E C I S I O N

In reviewing a claim of insufficiency of the evidence, we must affirm the verdict if it represents a reasonable conclusion, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the state and assuming the fact-finder believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved contrary evidence, but having due regard to the state's burden of proving appellant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Starte v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978). But it is a matter of law that "[a] confession of the defendant shall not be sufficient to warrant conviction without evidence that the offense charged has been committed." Minn. Stat. § 634.03 (1996). Each element of an offense need not be individually corroborated so long as the independent evidence, taken as a whole, makes the defendant's confession reliable. In re Welfare of M.D.S., 345 N.W.2d 723, 735 (Minn. 1984).

In the present case, the state's offered corroborating evidence, including (1) evidence that Lillo joined appellant in signing a lease application in January 1994, (2) evidence that the lease application stated that both appellant and Lillo were living in the same apartment at the time, (3) the friend's statement indicating that, to the best of her knowledge, appellant and Lillo were living together, and (4) evidence that Lillo had contacted the U.S. Postal service to have his mail forwarded from appellant's old apartment to the new apartment.

Although the friend retracted her statement, making evidence of the statement less reliable, her earlier statement remains a valid piece of evidence. This court must "assume that the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary." State v. Pierson, 530 N.W.2d 784, 787 (Minn. 1995). The jury may reasonably have chosen to believe that the statement was accurate and to disbelieve that the later retraction was genuine.

Viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, the supporting evidence is sufficient to corroborate appellant's confession as a matter of law.

Affirmed.