Judge nixes two charges on Prinzing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A Steele County judge dismissed two of three criminal counts against Mal Prinzing and his company, Di Ma Corporation, for violating campaign practices.

Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson received the order dismissing the charges Friday, and saw them Tuesday.

The charges stemmed from 2002 incidents in which Prinzing, a local pornography business owner, placed signs around Albert Lea accusing then-state-Sen. Grace Schwab of theft. In 2001, Schwab and the manager of Northbridge shopping mall had removed letters from a sign Prinzing had placed in Northbridge’s parking lot telling residents to vote against a school referendum. The manager gave the letters to the police, who returned them to Prinzing.

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Schwab narrowly lost the 2002 state senate election and has filed a civil suit, which will have a court date set when the criminal case is over, Prinzing’s lawyer said.

One charge against Prinzing’s Di Ma Corporation was dropped because the judge said the prosecution lacked probable cause. The charge stated that the company made inappropriate political contributions to defeat a political candidate. The county could not prove that the business had spent money to put up Prinzig’s signs, the judge ruled.

Nelson said he wasn’t surprised, since he had no witnesses saying otherwise. He maintains that the charge had merit since the land the sign was posted on, owned by the corporation, had value.

Another charge against Prinzing was dismissed because the statute used was declared unconstitutional. The statute disallows disseminating campaign information within 14 days before an election without a disclaimer.

Prinzing’s lawyer, Randall Tigue, said Ohio’s supreme court has declared a similar law unconstitutional, and that the decision to call it unconstitutional is not &uot;Earth-shattering.&uot;

He said he was unsure why the final charge against Prinzing was not dismissed.

The charge accuses Prinzing of distributing false information, and Tigue said simply because Schwab was not charged with theft doesn’t mean Prinzing lied.

&uot;So what? Lots of people who commit crimes don’t get charged,&uot; he said.

Nelson said it came down to knowing it wasn’t a crime. &uot;Was he told it wasn’t a crime?&uot; he said. Nelson asserts he was told several times by various law enforcement officials that Schwab committed no crimes.

He explained that he knew some of the charges would be difficult to prosecute, but said he is required by law to investigate charges, and could be charged criminally himself for not following through.

He said the standards for probable cause are different for charging a case and trying a case.

Tigue expects the court to set a trial date for the remaining charge this month.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock @albertleatribune.com or 379-3438.)