Hastings police officer cleared of stealing corkscrewArea News
-- Hastings police officer Rene Doffing was found not guilty of two counts of theft Thursday morning by a Dakota County jury. The jurors deliberated for just less than two hours.
Hastings police officer Rene Doffing was found not guilty of two counts of theft Thursday morning by a Dakota County jury. The jurors deliberated for just less than two hours.
"We are elated with the verdict," said Doffing's attorney, Paul Engh. "We're quite pleased officer Doffing can get back to his full duties as a patrol officer."
Doffing was accused of stealing a corkscrew from a Hastings restaurant on Nov. 22, 2010. He was charged with two counts of theft. Had he been convicted he would have lost his peace officer’s license and therefore would have been terminated by the City of Hastings.
It is expected that Doffing will be behind the wheel of a patrol car in a matter of days. He had been on paid administrative assignment while the matter worked its way through the judicial system.
Doffing got emotional when the verdict was read. He appeared to be fighting back tears as he turned to leave the courtroom.
Engh maintained through the trial that the corkscrew Doffing took from the restaurant was of no value.
"I thought the case was insipidly trivial," Engh said. "It was meaningless. There was no victim. There was nothing of value at stake."
Doffing admitted to taking a corkscrew from a bucket behind the bar at the Green Mill in Hastings. He was seen taking the opener by an off-duty Dakota County deputy. The deputy reported the incident to uniformed police officers who were at the restaurant for a union meeting. Doffing then showed the deputy and the officers the opener.
Soon after, a manager at the restaurant asked Doffing to give her the opener back, and he did.
When word spread of the incident, the Hastings police chief contacted a chief in another city and asked them to conduct an investigation. When the investigation concluded, Doffing was charged with theft.
Doffing, who owns a bar himself, contends he was merely interested in the opener and wanted to get some similar promotional items to have at his establishment. He knows the owner of the Green Mill in Hastings and testified that he intended to ask the owner if he could keep the opener.
After the verdict was read, Engh and Doffing left the courtroom and were headed down a hall when Engh looked at Doffing and said, "We're outta here," and the two shook hands.