Officers take stand in former Nisswa mayor case
Disorderly conduct case against Fred Heidmann continue in district court in Brainerd.
Two police officers took the stand Wednesday, April 21, to testify in former Nisswa Mayor Frederick Heidmann’s disorderly conduct case.
The testimony took place during an evidentiary hearing at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Kristine DeMay in Courtroom 3 of the Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. Evidentiary hearings are for resolution of matters pending trial and is where the court will hear the testimony of witnesses and allow the parties to present documents and other evidence.
Heidmann represented himself and Assistant County Attorney Michael D. Hagley with St. Louis County represented the state.
Heidmann’s case stems from an Aug. 29, 2020, incident where police were conducting a traffic stop of a third party along Highway 371 south of Nisswa as part of the Toward Zero Deaths program. Heidmann, who was at his business along Highway 371, began videotaping the traffic stop and then walked across the four-lane highway toward the vehicle that was pulled over. According to police reports, Heidmann was advised he could videotape the incident but was told to stand back away from the highway to be safe. Heidmann asked what the officers were doing and why they stopped the vehicle and words were exchanged. The incident ended with Heidmann being cited for two misdemeanors — obstruction of the legal process and disorderly conduct. The obstruction of the legal process citation was dismissed in December.
At the start of the hearing, Heidmann wanted to play videos and clips of the incident to the court, which included body and squad camera footage taken from the police officers. DeMay said for this type of hearing, the videos did not have to be played, but she would accept them to be brought into evidence in his case. The state also submitted footage to the court.
Heidmann filed motions with the court to have the case dismissed, claiming several errors were made in the charging documents by the state, a lack of probable cause and he is protected under the First Amendment. On April 13, Heidmann filed a 59-page document new motion to dismiss his case.
Hagley, who had already filed motions addressing the errors made in filing documents in the case, said Heidmann’s claims are not enough reason to dismiss the case. He said the probable cause has not changed and no new citations were issued in the case.
Hagley stated he wanted to call Pequot Lakes Officer Matthew Jorgens to the stand to testify. Heidmann, who listed nine witnesses to his case in an earlier motion, stated he wanted to call Nisswa Officer Matthew Thompson and Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang. After a brief discussion, it was decided Klang would not be questioned at the evidentiary hearing, as the state argued Klang was not present at the incident nor did he prepare the police report.
Hagley was the first to question Jorgens. Jorgens said he could hear Heidmann yelling during the incident and said things such as, “What are you guys doing here,” “I’m the mayor of this (expletive) town” and “Don’t you guys have something better to do? … Go patrol the (expletive) streets.” Jorgens said Heidmann was loud, angry and upset and he could hear him about 25-30 feet away along the highway.
Jorgens said Heidmann also had a dog on the leash who was partially in the lane of traffic and officers asked him to move. Jorgens said Heidmann left on his own and then returned to the scene in his vehicle and again began yelling and screaming. The officer also said Heidmann had one of his fists clenched as he was yelling.
Heidmann, who at first referred to himself in the third person while representing himself, also asked the officer several questions. DeMay told Heidmann he can refer to himself in the first person as it would be more clear.
Heidmann asked Jorgens if it was possible the voice seemed louder as the incident took place along a highway with vehicles driving by and if the officer could define loud. Jorgens said the yelling was louder than a regular conversation.
Heidmann asked Jorgens when he returned the second time if the officer was sure he heard yelling and screaming. Jorgens said due to the circumstances of the incident — Heidmann getting out of his vehicle immediately and then “rapidly approaching” the vehicle — he was concerned for the safety of the people in the vehicle.
Officer Thompson was called to the stand next. Heidmann asked him if he knew he was the Nisswa mayor and if he greeted him by name. Thompson said he knew he was the mayor, but he did not greet him. Thompson said he saw Heidmann cross the highway and approach the traffic stop and he advised the then mayor to get back for his safety.
Heidmann asked how close he was to the officer and if he was provoking him. Thompson said Heidmann was close to him, raising his voice, but he did not provoke him or use fighting words. Heidmann also did not spit or throw dirt at the officer.
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The former mayor asked Thompson if he was doing anything more other than letting the officers know that he was not pleased with the traffic stop. Thompson said Heidmann was yelling and keeping officers from doing their job.
Heidmann asked Thompson why his body camera turned off twice during the incident. Thompson said he turned it off as he thought the investigation was done, but turned it back on when he realized the incident was still going on.
Heidmann several times made remarks after the officers answered his questions, inferring the officers’ statments were not right. DeMay reminded him to keep his comments to himself, as it was not appropriate for him to argue with the witnesses during an evidentiary hearing.
During Heidmann’s questioning of both officers, Hagley objected several times as Heidmann’s questions were more his opinion or were not appropriate. Heidmann several times said he is not an attorney or expert and was doing the best he could. DeMay allowed some of the questions and other times she cited what she believed Heidmann was trying to say to add clarity.
Heidmann asked DeMay if he could call Jorgens to the stand a second time, as the first time he limited his questions as the officer was called by the state. DeMay allowed it.
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Heidmann asked Jorgens if he believed he was being violent against Thompson and if Thompson was in imminent danger. Jorgens said until a person is padded down and searched for weapons, officers have no idea how dangerous that person is. He said he was worried for everyone’s safety, including Heidmann, the officers on scene and the people involved in the traffic stop.
Thompson said he observed a heated discussion and saw things were escalating fast.
Heidmann questioned Jorgens about when he put him in handcuffs. Heidmann asked, “is it possible you caught me by surprise and that I fell backwards?” Jorgens said Heidmann’s fist was clenched, a struggle ensued and when he was trying to gain control of Heidmann, he pushed him.
At the end of the questioning, DeMay advised Heidmann he has until May 5 to file his final argument of the case with the court. The state prosecution then has until May 19 to respond. On May 20, the matter will be taken under advisement by the court.
JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.