DA charges college student with misdemeanor obstructionA legal stalemate between River Falls police and the Pierce County district attorney appears over.
RIVER FALLS -- A legal stalemate between River Falls police and the Pierce County district attorney appears over.
District Attorney John O’Boyle last week filed a misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer against Shane W. Nelson, 21, a University of Wisconsin-River Falls student.
Nelson is accused of fighting to get away from the grasp of patrol officer Greg Lotze after slipping out an apartment window and jumping from an awning in the 100 block of North Main Street late at night on Sept. 7.
Nelson allegedly then grappled on the ground with Lotze, kicking at him until he was able to squirm loose and run away. Lotze sustained minor injuries and saw a doctor.
Nelson was later tracked down, questioned at his apartment, arrested, jailed and eventually released.
After getting police reports on the case, O’Boyle refused to prosecute. He said the arrest may have been done without probable cause and that Nelson was asked a question before being read his Miranda rights.
Police Chief Roger Leque said he was shocked by O’Boyle’s evaluation and unwillingness to prosecute.
Leque said there was plenty of legally obtained evidence for what he viewed as a felony battery to one of his officers.
The city of River Falls used its attorney to bypass O’Boyle and, in an Oct. 8 special hearing at the Pierce County Courthouse, ask Pierce County Judge Joe Boles to permit the filing of a felony charge against Nelson.
Boles delayed such unusual court action, instead getting O’Boyle to agree to review the case again and make a final decision by the end of October.
Leque said he wasn’t informed by O’Boyle that he would charge Nelson but found out about it on Monday.
“The fact that (Nelson) was charged with a misdemeanor certainly was appropriate,” Leque said. “We are happy for that, but we still believe that the evidence also supports the more serious charge of a felony.”
On Tuesday O’Boyle said he charged Nelson for a very simple reason: Police did what he had wanted all along.
“Lo and behold, the DA is not as dumb as they said I am,” O’Boyle said. “They went back and did what I suggested, which was to do another interview with the friend who knew Nelson, the one Nelson had (first) texted about the incident.”
O’Boyle said that later interview resulted in what he called “post-arrest admissions” that appeared to implicate Nelson in the police scuffle.
O’Boyle said he considered the new evidence legally admissible, compared to the earlier “tainted evidence.”
O’Boyle said he opted for a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony because the police report wasn’t clear about the extent of officer Lotze’s injuries.
O’Boyle said state law is clear that a felony charge requires proof that an officer’s injuries in the line of duty necessitated immediate medical attention.
“He was scraped up and did go to the hospital, but he wasn’t taken by ambulance or for an emergency,” O’Boyle said, adding that Lotze’s treatment appeared more in keeping with “routine policy relating to worker’s comp” that required “medical documentation.”
O’Boyle said another reason for not charging the college student with a felony was that the young man had “no criminal history and appeared to be trying to run to avoid a drinking citation.”
O’Boyle, defeated in an August primary, will finish 20 years as the Pierce County district attorney at the end of December.
Nelson is scheduled to make an initial appearance on the obstruction charge at the Pierce County Courthouse in Ellsworth at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 19.