This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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




State of Minnesota,



Erik Allen Richter,


Filed November 24, 1998


Foley, Judge[*]

Wright County District Court

File No. K5-97-244

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Robert A. Stanich, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Wyman Nelson, Wright County Attorney, Wright County Government Center, 150 Courthouse, 10 N.W. Second St., Buffalo, MN 55313-1189 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan J. Andrews, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Ste. 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Foley, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.[**]


FOLEY, Judge

Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction of first-degree conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime. Because accomplice testimony and circumstantial evidence sufficiently established an agreement to manufacture methamphetamine, we affirm.


On October 15, 1995, Kimberly Anderson informed Wright County narcotics investigator Todd Hoffman that appellant Erik Richter and several other acquaintances were helping her boyfriend, Michael Burke, manufacture methamphetamine. Using surveillance equipment, Deputy Hoffman observed Richter giving Burke money and walking behind the residence where Burke's vans were parked. After Burke's subsequent arrest, narcotics officers found equipment "consistent with a methamphetamine lab" in the vans.

Executing a search warrant of the residence where the vans were parked, narcotics officers found 21 bottles of ephedrine hydrochloride traced to a company called Up Times Nutrition in Minneapolis and three bottles of a nasal decongestant, from which ephedrine hydrochloride can be extracted.[1] The search behind the residence also produced materials used in the methamphetamine manufacturing process, such as a flask containing hydrochloric acid and salt, stained filters, and a gas generator.

Richter was charged with conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.096, subd. 1, 152.021, subds. 1(3), 3 (1996). At Richter's jury trial, Burke admitted to manufacturing methamphetamine and purchasing ephedrine hydrochloride from Up Time Nutrition. Burke also admitted that Anderson and two other acquaintances bought ephedrine tablets for him from Up Time Nutrition, but he retracted an earlier statement to police that Richter was involved. The state introduced witness testimony that Richter accompanied Burke to Up Time Nutrition to purchase ephedrine hydrochloride tablets. In addition, Up Time Nutrition's ephedrine sales log for July 14, 1995 shows Richter's signature for 4,000 tablets of ephedrine hydrochloride, followed immediately by Burke's signature for 4,000 tablets.

Anderson confirmed that Burke paid her to buy 4,000 tablets of ephedrine hydrochloride from Up Time Nutrition on two different occasions. Anderson also testified that she helped Burke manufacture methamphetamine in the garage of Richter's Rockford residence. She stated that Richter and his girlfriend were present during different stages of the manufacturing process and received methamphetamine from Burke as rent. According to Anderson, Burke also manufactured methamphetamine at an acquaintance's farm, where Richter moved after his eviction from the Rockford residence. Deputy Hoffman found a bag of crushed ephedrine in Richter's room at the farm and discovered a jug of muriatic acid in the kitchen. According to Anderson, Richter also met Burke at her apartment to give him a large bag containing nasal decongestant and sales receipts indicating purchases from various Target stores.

The jury found Richter guilty and he now appeals.


An appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence requires review of the record in a light most favorable to the jury's verdict. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). Circumstantial evidence is sufficient if the evidence and the reasonable inferences are "consistent only with the defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt." State v. Bowles, 530 N.W.2d 521, 534 (Minn. 1995).

A person is guilty of a first-degree controlled substance crime if

on one or more occasions within a 90-day period the person unlawfully sells one or more mixtures of a total weight of 50 grams or more containing methamphetamine.

Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 1(3) (Supp. 1997). The definition of "sell" includes manufacturing. See Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 15a(1) (1996). Any person who conspires to commit the same offense is also guilty of felony. Minn. Stat. § 152.096, subd. 1 (1996). Conspiracy requires an agreement between two or more people to commit the crime and an overt act by one of the parties in furtherance of the conspiracy. Minn. Stat. § 609.175, subd. 2 (1996).

An agreement constituting conspiracy need not be proved by direct evidence, but may be inferred from the actions of the parties or other facts. State v. Watson, 433 N.W.2d 110, 114-15 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Feb. 10, 1989). Accomplice testimony, however, must be corroborated through other evidence that tends to convict appellant of the offense. Minn. Stat. § 634.04 (1996). The corroborating evidence may be circumstantial and is viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict. State v. Norris, 428 N.W.2d 61, 66 (Minn. 1988). Corroborating evidence

must link or connect the defendant to the crime. It is not necessary that it establish a prima facie case of the defendant's guilt.

* * * *

Corroborating evidence may be secured from the defendant's association with those involved in the crime in such a way as to suggest joint participation * * *. If his [sic] connection to the crime may be fairly inferred from those circumstances, the corroboration is sufficient.

State v. Ford, 539 N.W.2d 214, 225 (Minn. 1995) (citations omitted).

Here, the jury could reasonably infer an agreement between Richter and Burke to manufacture methamphetamine. The physical evidence from Burke's vans and temporary residence establishes that Burke was engaged in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Richter's testimony shows that he and Burke shared a close association. Burke lived with him for several weeks and accompanied him to Up Time Nutrition to buy ephedrine hydrochloride tablets. The sales log from Up Time Nutrition confirms that Burke, Richter, Anderson and two other acquaintances each bought 4000 ephedrine hydrochloride tablets within a four-week period. Finally, the police recovered muriatic acid and crushed ephedrine tablets, both used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, from Richter's residence at the farm.

Richter contends that he did not conspire to use the crushed ephedrine and muriatic acid to manufacture methamphetamine, but rather he smoked and snorted the crushed ephedrine and surmised that the muriatic acid was used to clean kitchen pipes. This court defers to the jury's evaluation of the evidence, including the credibility and weight given to witness testimony. State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988). The jury placed greater weight on the testimony of narcotics officer Hoffman, who stated he had not heard of anyone smoking or snorting crushed ephedrine, and a DEA agent, who stated he was unaware of any uses for muriatic acid in the kitchen or elsewhere on a farm.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, the accomplice testimony of Burke and Anderson and corroborating evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to find a conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.


[*]Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[**]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] Ephedrine hydrochloride is a primary ingredient in the manufacture of meth oil, which is combined with muriatic or hydrochloric acid and salt to produce methamphetamine.