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No charges against Stevenson

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Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan Wednesday announced he would not bring charges in the case related to comments made by former legislative candidate Taylor Stevenson of Baxter that were reported as possible threats to Crow Wing County commissioners.

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Ryan said there was no basis upon which to bring criminal charges of terrorist threats.

“It is my opinion that inappropriate comments were made by Taylor Stevenson,” Ryan wrote in a letter. “However the comments do not rise to the level of criminal conduct.”

The county attorney said Stevenson’s comments do not directly, or indirectly, threaten to commit an actual crime of violence; but rather, to have someone else call in such a threat. No actual threats were later made, Ryan stated in his letter, and Stevenson did not direct someone to call in a threat.

“Rather when confronted about his comments, Mr. Stevenson emphatically apologized and admitted the comments were inappropriate,” Ryan wrote. “Additionally, all of the Crow Wing County commissioners told law enforcement that they did not feel threatened by the comments.”

Josh and Keri Heintzeman, who were then chair and secretary, respectively, of the now-defunct Crow Wing County Human Rights Commission, reported to Brainerd Police that Stevenson, then a commission member, comments they thought could be threats at Crow Wing County Board commissioners.

Josh Heintzeman of Nisswa said in October that after the county board voted to consider abolishing the Human Rights Commission on Sept. 13, Stevenson said “I have people that could phone in some threats.”

The 2010 DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate District 12 said Wednesday he didn’t remember exactly what he said, but that he probably said something he shouldn’t have and apologized for it.

“I’m pleased to hear the county attorney has seen to throw out these political attacks and that the matter is laid to rest,” Stevenson said.

Josh Heintzeman declined to comment immediately and asked for time to consider his response. He and his wife sent an email response:

“I wish we could say that we are shocked by the county attorney’s findings, but we’re not,” they wrote. “Early on, it seemed that there was very little interest in the death threat statements Taylor Stevenson made.

“Apparently, it is not what you know, but who you know that makes your case. We feel, the decision to decline prosecution is fraudulent, to say the least. To deem this matter not criminal should have been left up to a jury to decide, not the Crow Wing County attorney. With this outcome, we are less confident in the Brainerd area legal system and feel no safer.”

Ryan said, in his letter, he reviewed the investigative materials associated with the statements made by Stevenson. This included statements made by the Heintzemans, William Durham, Stevenson, an audio recording made of a phone conversation between Josh Heintzeman and Stevenson and interviews of all five county commissioners.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5860.

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Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2010 and works as a online reporter, content editor and staff writer. She is a world traveler, accused idealist and California native now braving the winters of Central Minnesota. She believes in the power of human resolve and hopes to be part of something that makes history by bringing an end to injustice in the world. Sarah has worked as a criminal background researcher, high school civics teacher, grant writer, and contributing writer with Causecast.org — tackling every issue from global poverty to bio-degradable bicycles. Her favorite thing about living in Minnesota is July. Sarah left the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2014.
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