may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Jason Robert Bergin,
Filed July 29, 1997
Beltrami County District Court
File No. K2-96-402
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; Timothy R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, 207 Fourth Street, Bemidji, MN 56601 (for Appellant)
Paul T. Benshoof, 403 Fourth Street Northwest, Four West Office Complex, Suite 220, Bemidji, MN 56601 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Norton, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.
The state challenges the district court's finding of special circumstances and subsequent stay of adjudication on respondent Jason Robert Bergin's charge of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. We affirm.
Bergin came to realize that his relationship with V.K. was improper, so he talked to the school principals, Steve Lundberg and Tom Matthews, and, according to the principals, Bergin told them that
he had made the mistake of falling in love with V.K. and that they had been having sex. * * * [H]e knew it would affect his job but he wanted to come clean, to get it off his chest and he felt that he wanted to let us know just exactly what the situation was.
The principals later told the state's investigators the following:
He told us that he had fallen in love with V.K. and I believe it, you know, that this may have been his first love. I don't see him as a sexual predator of any kind. * * * I wouldn't think there would be any type of pattern to this. * * * He got involved with a student and I don't think he's, I don't think there is a pattern of this type of behavior.
(Tom Matthews speaking.)
In my opinion, I would agree with Tom. I had an opportunity to have him [Bergin] help me this summer actually on a job site that I was working in town on my house and I hired him this summer, his off time to work, and I got to know him probably on a little different basis and uh, I don't see it as a problem whatsoever. (Steve Lundberg speaking.)
From the documents submitted, specifically the letters from V.K. to Bergin, it appears that V.K. aggressively pursued a relationship with Bergin. After Bergin disclosed his relationship with V.K. to the principals, he stopped initiating contact with V.K. V.K., however, continued to send letters and telephone Bergin at his grandparents' home.
Bergin voluntarily submitted to and paid for a psychological evaluation by Dr. Mark Haugen. Dr. Haugen stated that some of the factors that contributed to the relationship between Bergin and V.K. "probably included [Bergin's] limited experience in dating and other heterosexual activities, his social immaturity and poorly-developed social skills." Dr. Haugen stated in his report that he had a "high level of confidence in [Bergin's] ability to complete treatment in a timely manner."
On the morning of trial, Bergin's counsel delivered an affidavit signed by V.K.'s mother to the state and the district court. The affidavit stated that: (1) Bergin and V.K. had a consensual sexual relationship that occurred as a result of affection they both held for each other; (2) a trial would not be in her daughter's best interest; and (3) allowing Bergin to plead guilty to the charge on the basis of a stay of adjudication was the best way to resolve the matter. Bergin agreed to plead guilty to the charge if the court would sentence him on a stay of adjudication. The state told the court that it wanted to talk with V.K.'s mother about the affidavit before agreeing to a stay of adjudication. The district court granted a continuance to allow the state an opportunity to meet with V.K.'s mother.
A month later, when the matter was before the court again, the state informed the district court that it still had not talked to V.K.'s mother. Bergin, the state, and the court continued to discuss the case and Bergin's proposed plea to the charge if he were sentenced on a stay of adjudication. The state said it would not agree to a stay of adjudication, but it would recommend a stay of imposition. The district court told Bergin that it could not promise that it would grant Bergin's request for a stay of adjudication, but the court did indicate a strong willingness to consider the request.
Based on the district court's statements, Bergin decided to plead guilty to the charge cited in the complaint. During the state's questioning of Bergin, the state told Bergin that even though it would be opposed to a stay of adjudication, the final decision on sentencing would be "up to the judge."
Approximately one month later, the state took a statement from V.K.'s mother. She acknowledged that she had signed her affidavit three months earlier and that she had read it and understood what it meant. She did state, however, that she "would like for him [Bergin] to get a record, to have this on his record, maybe do some time, treatment, and not to get a chance to do this thing to anybody else's daughter." Additionally, V.K.'s mother stated that she "would just like him to pay."
At the sentencing hearing, the district court determined that there were "special circumstances" that justified granting a stay of adjudication for 15 years. As a condition of the supervised probation, the district court sentenced Bergin to 90 days in county jail, which was served under the so-called Huber Act; required him to complete 300 hours of community work service; required him to enter at his own expense and successfully complete any treatment program that is recommended to him; and restricted him from any unsupervised contact with minor girls or vulnerable adults. It is from this decision that the state appeals.
In the present case, the district court found the existence of almost the identical "special circumstances" as were present in Krotzer. In Krotzer, the defendant was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b) (1994). Krotzer, who was 19, engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with his girlfriend, who was 14 when they began having sex. The state and Krotzer were unable to reach a plea agreement, therefore, Krotzer pleaded guilty and requested the court to stay adjudication. Over the state's objection, the district court sentenced Krotzer to the stay of adjudication. The supreme court affirmed this court's recognition that special circumstances of the case warranted the stay of adjudication, stating that requiring Krotzer to register as a predatory sex offender "would not appear to be appropriate in this case because there is no history of aggressiveness, or any aggressiveness in the present offense." Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d at 253. The Krotzer court stated that:
Although the court did not act pursuant to any express Minnesota rule or statute, its decision to stay adjudication of Krotzer's charge instead of accepting his guilty plea fell within the "inherent judicial power" we have repeatedly recognized, and was necessary to the furtherance of justice in Krotzer's case.
Id. at 254-55 (footnote omitted).
Bergin, like Krotzer, has no history of aggressiveness, and he did not display any sign of aggressiveness in the present offense. The relationship between Bergin and V.K. was consensual and they appeared to truly love one another. As in Krotzer, V.K.'s mother at first did not appear to want anything substantial to happen to Bergin. V.K.'s mother stated that she wanted Bergin to do some time, get treatment, and not have the opportunity to do this to anyone else. From the conditions of the stay of adjudication, each of these desires of V.K.'s mother should be fulfilled. The only desire of V.K.'s mother that will not be fulfilled is that Bergin receive a record for this charge, provided that Bergin follows each of the conditions as outlined by the district court.
In comparing Bergin's sentence to the Krotzer sentence, Bergin's sentence is more severe. In Krotzer, the defendant received probation of five years. As conditions of his probation, Krotzer was ordered to serve 60 days in jail, to pay $200 to the public defender's fund and $415 in fines and surcharges, and to have no unsupervised contact with any other female adolescents under the age of 16. Here, the district court sentenced Bergin to 15 years' supervised probation. As conditions of his probation, Bergin was ordered to serve 90 days in jail, perform 300 hours of community work service, enter and successfully complete any treatment program (at his own expense) that is recommended to him, and until otherwise indicated by the Department of Corrections, have no unsupervised contact with minor girls or vulnerable adults.
Further, the record indicates that Bergin has no criminal history and that he cooperated with the county's deputy and the child abuse investigator. The principals and several teachers with whom Bergin worked stated that he is a dedicated young man who works hard and is well liked. The letters of support for a stay of adjudication from family and friends support this characterization. Bergin voluntarily submitted to and paid for an evaluation which explained his becoming involved with V.K. as due in part to his social immaturity and lack of interpersonal skills.
In conclusion, the district court correctly found the existence of special circumstances that justified the use of the court's inherent judicial power to impose a stay of adjudication to accomplish the furtherance of justice.
[ ]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
[ ]1 Prior to his relationship with V.K., Bergin never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a woman or girl.
[ ]2 Under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1 (1994), a person must register as a "predatory offender" if he is convicted of criminal sexual conduct under the statute with which Krotzer was charged. The law requires a "predatory offender" to comply with the registration requirements for a period of ten years. Failure to follow the requirements of the statute is a gross misdemeanor.