This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




In the Matter of the Welfare of:


Filed May 25, 1999

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Amundson, Judge

Renville County District Court

File No. J6-98-50233

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414; and

Curtis L. Reese, Selander and Reese, P.L.L.P., 207 South Eighth Street, P.O. 56, Olivia, MN 56277 (for appellant)

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

David J. Torgelson, Renville County Attorney, Chad B. Sterle, Assistant County Attorney, 800 East DePue Avenue, P.O. Box D, Olivia, MN 56277 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.



On appeal, J.W.S. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his adjudication of delinquency for fifth-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1 (1998) and argues that the trial court's disposition was improper as a matter of law. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Charlotte Fahey, an adult witness, testified that on June 17, 1998, she observed then sixteen-year-old J.W.S attack or grab a fifteen-year-old male and squeeze him. Fahey also testified that she knew both young men by name, and that the victim's nine-year-old sister also witnessed the attack. After the attack, Fahey approached the screaming victim and asked if she should call a doctor. The victim finally stood up and said he was going to walk home.

The victim's sister testified that on June 17, 1998, she saw J.W.S. beat her brother. She observed J.W.S. push her brother, who then put his hands in the air and told J.W.S. that he did not want to fight. J.W.S. then grabbed her brother and slammed him to the ground. The victim's sister made an in-court identification of J.W.S. as the perpetrator of the assault.

A delinquency petition was filed, alleging that J.W.S. committed assault in the fifth degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1 (1998). After trial, J.W.S. was adjudged delinquent and the court imposed a disposition that included placement in a detention center for 30 days. On appeal, J.W.S. challenges both the adjudication and the disposition placing him in a juvenile detention center.


The Adjudication

On appeal from an adjudication of delinquency, the appellant must show that "the trier of fact could not reasonably find he committed the charged acts." In re Welfare of T.M.V., 368 N.W.2d 421, 423 (Minn. App. 1985). In reviewing a claim of insufficiency of the evidence, we evaluate the record, and the inferences drawn from the record, in a light most favorable to the state and we assume the fact-finder believed the state's witnesses and rejected any contrary evidence. In re Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Minn. App. 1997). The weight afforded the evidence and the evaluation of the credibility of the witnesses is for the trier of fact. Id.

After trial, J.W.S. was adjudicated delinquent for committing assault in the fifth degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1. This is a misdemeanor assault that requires a showing that a person:

(1) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
(2) intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.

Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1. The evidence and testimony presented at trial, viewed in the light most favorable to the state, indicate the trial court reasonably concluded that J.W.S. intentionally inflicted bodily harm upon the victim.

Two witnesses testified that they observed J.W.S. grab or squeeze the victim and push him to the ground. While one of the witnesses was the victim's sister, the other witness, Ms. Fahey, was an impartial observer who unexpectedly came around the corner just prior to the incident. Fahey also testified that she heard the victim screaming and crying in pain after the assault occurred. The two witnesses testimony was supported by the investigating officer, who testified that the both witnesses gave a statement the day after the assault, which was consistent with their trial testimony.

Giving deference to the trial court's ability to judge the credibility of witnesses, there was evidence from which the court could reasonably find beyond a reasonable doubt that J.W.S. committed the crime of fifth-degree assault, and we affirm the adjudication.

The Disposition

Trial courts are afforded broad discretion in choosing the appropriate juvenile delinquency disposition, and this court will affirm the disposition as long as it is not arbitrary. In re Welfare of J.A.J., 545 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Minn. App. 1996). The goal of a delinquency disposition is to rehabilitate the offender, and the disposition must be necessary to achieve the rehabilitative purpose. In re Welfare of M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d 494, 498 (Minn. App. 1990).

In imposing the disposition, the trial court must set forth in writing: (1) why the disposition is in the child's best interests; (2) what alternatives were considered; and (3) why such alternatives were not appropriate. Id. at 498-99; Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1 (1998). A trial court's failure to make the statutorily required disposition findings constitutes reversible error. In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 401 (Minn. App. 1985). Additionally, when an out-of-home placement is considered, there must be evidence that the aims of the law cannot be realized without removal from the home and that the placement is suitable for the needs of the child. Id. at 399-400. Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(B)(3) discusses out-of-home placement in dispositional orders, stating:

Public policy mandates that the best interests of the child are normally served by parental custody. Where an out-of-home placement is being considered, the placement should be suitable to the child's needs. A placement that is not suited to the actual needs of the child cannot serve the child's best interests.

The trial court failed to make the requisite findings in its dispositional order to support an out-of-home placement. In its order, the court merely stated that

the Court considers the above disposition to be in the best interests of the child and all alternative dispositions were considered and rejected.

This conclusory statement is not sufficient to support the out-of-home placement of J.W.S., especially given the considerable length of the detention. In its dispositional order, the court must give specific, written reasons why the disposition is in the child's best interests, what alternatives were considered, and why such alternatives were not appropriate. The trial court failed to do so in issuing J.W.S.'s dispositional order. Additionally, because the court was considering an out-of-home placement, the court must make a finding as to how the placement would serve the actual needs of J.W.S. and why these needs could not be met while keeping J.W.S. in his home.

Because the trial court failed to make the requisite findings to support the out-of-home placement of J.W.S., we reverse the disposition with respect to the placement in the juvenile detention facility and remand to the trial court for further findings in light of the directives set forth in this opinion.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.