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August 16_ 2007 - Fax Cover Sheet

VIEWS: 9 PAGES: 4

									                           Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission
                                    Approved Meeting Minutes
                                         August 16, 2007


  The Commission meeting was held on August 16, 2007, at the Department of Corrections, 1450
  Energy Park Drive, Suite 200, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Commission members in attendance were
  Chair Steven Borchardt, Darci Bentz, Judge Edward Cleary, Jeffrey Edblad, Commissioner of
  Corrections Joan Fabian, Tracy Jenson, Connie Larson, Judge Gordon Shumaker and Justice Alan
  Page. Executive Director Isabel Gomez and other staff members were in attendance.

  Members of the public present were Rex Tucker, Chief Public Defender, Seventh Judicial District;
  Brock Hunter and Dan Knuth, Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Matt Majovski,
  Dakota County Community Corrections; Dan Griffin, State Court Administrator’s Office; former State
  Senator Jane Ranum, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office; Chuck Noerenberg, State Meth
  Coordinator, Department of Health; James Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney; John Kingrey,
  Minnesota County Attorneys Association; and Boyd Beccue, Kandiyohi County Attorney.

 I. Call to Order

    Meeting called to order by Chair Borchardt at 2:14 p.m.

II. Approval of Meeting Minutes

    Motion was made by Connie Larson and seconded by Jeffrey Edblad to approve the meeting
    minutes.

    Motion carried without dissent.

III. Executive Director’s Report and Announcements

    Isabel Gomez introduced the newest members of the staff: Research Analysts Bethany Habinek
    and Jeff Holtz, and Office and Administrative Specialist Christina Smith. As of July 1, 2007, the
    Commission meeting stipend for public members went from $50 to $55 per month. Also, the
    second Legislative Forum will be in mid-September; the subject will be Collateral Sanctions.

    Ms. Gomez reported that she had met with Jean Olson, director of the Campaign Finance and
    Public Disclosure Board to discuss notice and compliance issues. Prior to the meeting, Olson had
    checked her files and determined that, because no certificates of appointment had ever been
    created for either MSGC directors or the judicial members, these individuals had not in the past
    met the Board’s financial disclosure requirements. Subsequently, the Chief Justice was notified of
    the issue, and Director Gomez was now giving notice to Commissioners.

    Chair Borchardt announced that he will be resigning; the September 2007 meeting will likely be his
    last. He must turn his attention again toward his primary responsibilities in Olmsted County.
    Judge Shumaker suggested that the next Chair be someone with experience on the Commission
    with an understanding of its recent history. The Chair agreed, indicating that he encouraged
    Jeffrey Edblad to seek appointment. He also invited interested commissioners to volunteer.
    Director Gomez stated that the Sheriff’s resignation is a great loss to the Commission. She
    thanked the Chair for his exemplary leadership over the last four years.




  Approved MSGC Meeting Minutes                      1                                 August 16, 2007
IV. Old Business

   Statutory Mandate to Re-Rank Controlled Substance Offenses

   This issue was tabled at the last Commission meeting to allow members time to re-read the 2007
   Updated Drug Report and review its past actions and discussion concerning drug sentencing.

   Chair Borchardt tried to contact Senator Neuville to determine the original intent of the legislation.
   He received a voicemail from the Senator who said that that the directive did not necessarily
   require the Commission to replicate the re-ranking set forth in the updated drug report. However,
   the Commission should re-rank in accordance with the statute’s stated requirements and should
   achieve prison bed savings. Chair Borchardt indicated that his constituency would not support
   lowering controlled substance in the first-degree and second-degree by one severity level each.
   He had concerns about Minnesota’s drug thresholds, but realized that that was a job for the
   legislature.

   Judge Cleary agreed that the thresholds are disparate and need review. He would like to see the
   present severity levels preserved for more serious offenders who deserve prison sentences. He
   expressed the view that the Commission should be mindful of the “Blakely issues” that might result
   if judges are often required to depart upward in order to commit offenders who deserve prison.

   Jeffrey Edblad stated that the Commission should not proceed without giving such agencies as the
   Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota
   Sheriffs’ Association, and the Association of Minnesota Counties opportunity to comment. He said
   that all of these groups had an interest in speaking. He further stated that producers and
   traffickers should not be treated the same as addicts.

   Motion by Jeffrey Edblad and seconded by Commissioner Fabian to have the Chair convene a
   sub-committee and have it devise up to five options exploring various ways to change the
   controlled substance rankings. The menu of recommendations would then be forwarded to the
   Legislature.

   Director Gomez recommended that any future work be done in public meetings and before the
   entire Commission. She felt that it was unfair to the Legislature to suggest that interested parties
   had had no previous opportunity to be heard. The legislative process was democratic and there
   had been two months between the time that the Senate bill passed out of committee and the
   omnibus bill was voted on and passed in both houses.

   Connie Larson stated that, after re-reading the updated drug report, she felt it was straightforward
   and said that it appeared the Legislature wanted to see the re-ranking set forth in the report. She
   said that, even if it is important to explore changing thresholds, that was not what the Legislature
   included in its statute.

   Darci Bentz said that the Commission does not have the authority to change thresholds and
   agreed that the Legislature required re-rankings. Drug addicts should be treated differently from
   sellers and producers, but current law does not allow for it. She stated that the updated report
   was based upon data. She was concerned that giving the assignment to a sub-committee would
   create an adversarial forum that could not reach consensus; the strength of the data would be lost.
   She found it disingenuous to make the recommendations in the report, vote in favor of it, but not
   act upon it. She felt that the public could still have input after it became law because the
   Legislature could change it. Ms. Bentz recalled that when the Commission created the new sex




  Approved MSGC Meeting Minutes                       2                                   August 16, 2007
    offender grid, it moved it forward in its report to the Legislature. She asked how this was any
    different.

    Commissioner Fabian disagreed; in the case of the sex offender grid, there was an in-depth
    analysis. She did not believe that this was done with the updated drug report.

    Judge Shumaker felt that the sex offender grid was a unique situation. In his opinion, after serving
    on several drug committees, further discussion by the Commission would not yield a consensus.
    He felt that the best thing to do was to do a re-ranking as provided in the statute and send the
    product to the Legislature, where it would certainly generate critiques and further discussion.

    Judge Cleary stated that the Commission had an obligation to respond to the Legislature, but felt
    additional recommendations could be offered.

    Motion amended to put the issue before the whole Commission rather than a sub-committee.

    Motion failed: four votes in favor; four opposed; one abstention.

    The Commission discussed alternatives that would allow for a combination of solutions including
    looking at making a distinction between sellers and addicts. It was suggested that Commission
    members and members of the public should forward proposals to the Commission’s staff for
    presentation at the next Commission meeting.

    Motion by Judge Shumaker and seconded by Jeffrey Edblad to table the issue until the
    September meeting and have the staff collect information and proposals in the interim.

    Motion carried without dissent.

    Commission members and members of the public should contact the MSGC office with their ideas.
    Also, a request for public input will be posted on the Commission’s website and an email will go
    out to the Commission mailing list.


V. New Business

    There was no new business to discuss.

VI. Public Input

    James Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, said that there had not been adequate public
    discussion of the drug re-ranking issue with all concerned parties.

    John Kingrey, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, applauded the Commission for their
    discussion and for delaying a decision related to the drug re-ranking. He stated that, while there is
    disagreement among county attorneys, the association has already taken a position, and they will
    be revisiting it soon. He stated that moving everything down one level would be crude; a more
    targeted approach is needed. He felt that weight thresholds could be part of the discussion.

    Former State Senator Jane Ranum, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, noted that the
    Commission’s discussion was thoughtful and that reasonable people can differ. She encouraged
    further discussion in the area of drug thresholds. She stated that lowering drug offenses by one
    severity level would send the wrong message to the public and did not recognize the predatory
    nature of sellers.



  Approved MSGC Meeting Minutes                       3                                  August 16, 2007
    Boyd Beccue, Kandiyohi County Attorney, stated that citizens in his county want to see sellers and
    dealers punished more severely than addicts. He also states that in West-Central Minnesota there
    has been a reappearance of gang crimes related to meth turf wars. Because of this, it would be
    counter-productive to lower the severity level for meth crimes.

    Brock Hunter, Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, stated that the Commission
    and the MACDL are not that far apart on this issue, since they agree it is time to address
    thresholds. He supported moving forward on the proposal to re-rank first- and second-degree
    offenses now. A bill for a kingpin statute can be devised to target such people as predatory gang
    leaders. It could provide longer sentences than the re-ranked first-degree crime.

    Rex Tucker, Seventh Judicial District’s Chief Public Defender, stated that people who have drug
    addictions are sick and need help. Because the vast majority of drug offenses in Minnesota are
    committed by users, not dealers, proportionality could be restored if the focus was turned to
    rehabilitation for those users.

    Matt Majovski, Dakota County Community Corrections, felt that the legislative proposal offers an
    opportunity to reach a consensus for changes in drug sentencing.

VII. Adjournment


    The meeting was adjourned at 3:34 p.m. without objection.




  Approved MSGC Meeting Minutes                      4                                 August 16, 2007

								
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