may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Steven Arnold Tveit, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed December 8, 1998
St. Louis County District Court
File No. K695600633
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Alan Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, John E. DeSanto, Assistant County Attorney, St. Louis County Courthouse, 100 North Fifth Avenue West, Duluth, MN 55802 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Harten, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.
Appellant was convicted of three counts of terroristic threats, one count of violation of an OFP, and one count of fifth-degree assault, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.713, subd. 1, 518B.01, and 609.224, subd. 1 (1996), respectively. Appellant challenges the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, which alleged trial-court error in failing to sever the offenses for separate trials. We affirm.
On July 2, 1995, appellant Steven Tveit contacted his estranged wife Deborah Tveit at her grandmother's house to speak to his son. An order for protection prohibited Tveit from having contact with his wife and visiting his children without supervision. When Tveit's request to visit his son was denied, he drove to the residence, threatened to kill Bob Andrews, his wife's father, and grabbed Andrew's overalls. Tveit was arrested later that day for violating the terms of the protective order. From jail, Tveit telephoned his wife's brother and threatened to kill his wife and her parents.
The next month, Tveit repeatedly told his mother, Dinah Tveit, that he was going to kill his wife with a .44 Magnum. According to his mother, Tveit blamed both her and his wife for his failing farm and gravel pit business. On August 15, Tveit directly threatened his wife on the telephone. A day later, Tveit's mother warned his wife of Tveit's threats and his references to Sharie Kadine, a local woman shot by her ex-husband.
In late August, Tveit argued with his mother about a broken gravel loader. In the heat of the argument, Tveit grabbed a paintbrush out of his mother's hand and splattered her face with paint. A few weeks later, Tveit noticed the still-broken gravel loader. Enraged, he telephoned his mother, accused her and his wife of ruining his life, and threatened to shoot her. After threatening his mother, he attempted to call his wife from a bar, but only got an answering machine. He told a bartender that he was going to shoot his mother, his grandmother, and his wife and made reference to a loaded .44 in his car. The police arrested Tveit later that day at a friend's residence. A search of the residence uncovered a .44 magnum.
The state filed a seven-count complaint against Tveit, charging him with three counts of terroristic threats for his threats against his wife, her parents, and his mother, two counts of violation of an OFP, and two counts of fifth-degree assault for grabbing his wife's father and splattering his mother with paint. Tveit unsuccessfully moved to sever the seven offenses for five separate trials corresponding to the dates of the incidents. The jury convicted Tveit of five of the seven offenses, and Tveit petitioned for postconviction relief, seeking reversal of his convictions.
On appeal, this court reviews post conviction decisions under an abuse-of- discretion standard. Miller v. State, 531 N.W.2d 491, 492 (Minn. 1995). The postconviction court determined that the trial court's failure to sever the offenses in the multi-count complaint was not reversible error. We agree.
On defendant's motion, a trial court shall sever offenses or charges if they are not related or, if the court determines severance is appropriate to promote a fair determination of the defendant's guilt or innocence of each offense. Minn. R. Crim. P. 17.03, subd. 3(1). In determining whether the offenses require separate trials, Minnesota courts examine whether the offenses arose from the same course of conduct, were related in time and geographic proximity, or, were motivated by a single criminal objective. State v. Dukes, 544 N.W.2d 13, 20 (Minn. 1996). This test is not mechanical; it involves an examination of all the facts and circumstances of the case. State v. Banks, 331 N.W.2d 491, 493 (Minn. 1983).
Here, Tveit's statements to his mother and a bartender link the offenses together and indicate that he was motivated by a common criminal objective: terrorizing his mother and wife, who he perceived to be the cause of his personal and professional failures. His repeated threats to kill them or anyone who stood between him and them establish that the same ongoing course of conduct led to the multiple offenses. See State v. Andersen, 370 N.W.2d 653, 660 (Minn. App. 1985) (common thread of misuse of governmental power and disorderly conduct in three separate incidents over a one month period supported trial court conclusion that offense arose from same course of conduct). We therefore conclude that failure to sever the offenses for separate trials was not error.
Moreover, even if the failure to sever was improper, Tveit has not met his burden of showing the error was prejudicial. Bloom v. Hydrotherm, Inc., 499 N.W.2d 842, 845 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. June 28, 1993). As Tveit does not dispute, evidence of the other offenses would be admissible at the trial of one charge as Spreigl evidence of intent and absence of mistake. See State v. Conaway, 319 N.W.2d 35, 42 (Minn. 1982); State v. Knight, 260 N.W.2d 186, 187 (Minn. 1977) (technically improper joinder of offenses is not prejudicial if evidence concerning the other offenses would be admissible as relevant evidence or as Spreigl evidence). We reject Tveit's assertion that Rule 403 would bar admissibility of such evidence. See Minn. R. Evid. 403 (evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice). Given Tveit's claims that his statements were misunderstood as threats and that his victims were making the threats up, evidence of the multiple offenses has considerable probative value. Balanced against the only prejudice identified by Tveit - that multiple offenses might depict him as "a very dangerous man" - evidence of other offenses would be admissible.
Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by apointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.