No charges for Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude
|Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude.|
- Cover: The Hangover: Big drama in small-town Minnesota after a party gone wrong
- Mille Lacs Co Attorney: "I had no knowledge of any minors consuming alcohol on my property"
As Andy Mannix reported in a feature story earlier this month, the party -- a late-May graduation celebration for Jude's daughter -- ignited controversy in the community surrounding the small town of Milaca.
Jude herself is familiar with teenagers drinking at graduation parties. In 2010, she prosecuted another mother for providing alcohol to minors at her house. Though a jury found the woman not guilty, Jude pointed to the case as "a good reminder during this graduation season that we all have to be mindful of underage drinking and take whatever precautions we can."
But this time around, Andover City Prosecutor Scott Baumgartner -- who reviewed the case so that Jude wouldn't have to decide whether to prosecute herself -- determined that "there just wasn't enough" to charge Jude with either providing alcohol to a minor or misconduct of a public official.
The evidence Baumgartner reviewed included 19 witness statement from people at the party. None of them said that the Judes had provided any of the drinks.
"I couldn't find one individual that said or acknowledged that any alcohol was provided by the Judes," Baumgartner told City Pages on Monday morning. "In fact, most of the statements that were taken indicated that the minors there brought their own or got it from somebody else."
As for misconduct of a public official, Baumgartner describes it as "kind of a strange," niche charge. "This was a private matter on private property," Baumgartner explains, and less related to the obligations and responsibilities of Jude's office.
"It's a very limited statute, and in this case, the only thing I could have seen as misconduct would be an obligation to move forward with charges of underage consumption," Baumgartner says. He ruled that out, however, as a stretch. Plus, he says, in any case against the teens at the party, Jude herself would have been a witness, and "conflicted out" of her role as prosecutor.
One more question remains: Whether Jude knew that kids were drinking at the party. Mille Lacs County doesn't have a social host ordinance, so even if Jude did know, it wouldn't have been a crime. But Jude does say she wasn't aware of any alcohol; some party-goers counter that it would have been hard not to be.
After his own review, Baumgartner says he "didn't get the impression" that Jude knew about any drinking.
"The location of where the minors were allegedly drinking alcohol was a ways away from the house," Baumgartner says. "It seemed like everything was contained down by the bonfire, and [Jude] never went down there."
One girl at the party did tell investigators that she handed her car keys directly to Jude, because Jude didn't want anyone driving if they were drinking. Baumgartner notes that Jude denies that exchange, and that "that one gal was the only one who made any comment like that."
"With any of these charges, you've got to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt," Baumgartner says. "And in this case, there just wasn't enough to get me over that hump."
Jude is out on vacation until August 5, and the Mille Lacs County Attorney's Office has declined to comment on the denial of charges until her return.
Here's Baumgartner's full letter.