Attorney seeks dismissal of Prinzing charges

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 1, 2003

Malcolm Prinzing’s attorney asked a judge to drop charges of displaying false political and campaign material against his client on the grounds that there isn’t evidence to prove Prinzing knew the falsity of his accusations against former State Senator Grace Schwab.

In an affidavit Prinzing alleges that law enforcement never told him that Schwab’s removal and return of letters from his marquee signs were not considered theft.

Prinzing’s attorney Randall Tigue said the Minnesota Supreme Court requires that the prosecution prove that Prinzing knew that his statements were false.

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In a September Tribune article Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson said Prinzing had been told several times by law enforcement that what Schwab did was not illegal.

Tigue pointed to affidavits from law enforcement and the county attorney that don’t mention telling Prinzing that Schwab’s actions weren’t theft. He said at a hearing yesterday Nelson admitted he couldn’t prove that fact.

Tigue said he thinks the case should be dismissed on those grounds. An earlier motion to dismiss the charge based on a lack probable cause was denied.

Nelson said that he thought the case depended on what he can prove about what Prinzing knew.

But Nelson couldn’t be reached by the Tribune Friday afternoon to discuss what he told the Tribune in September, or Tigue’s points.

A motion also has been filed to remove Nelson from prosecuting the case so that he can be a witness about conversations and involvement he had with the case.

At a hearing held Thursday, Nelson denied Prinzing’s accusations that he told Prinzing, &uot;because of what you do for a living, or, at least what people think you do for a living,&uot; he couldn’t promise the possibility of a theft investigation.

Prinzing was once the owner and tenant of several pornography businesses in addition to having several other businesses, Tigue said.

The motion and affidavits are another chapter in a legal saga that began in 2001 when then-State Sen. Grace Schwab and a mall manager removed letters from a political sign Prinzing had placed without permission in the Northbridge Mall parking lot.

The letters were returned by police, and Prinzing placed more signs calling Schwab a thief, and telling people not to vote for her in an upcoming election. Schwab narrowly lost that election and has a civil suit pending against Prinzing involving this case.

Nelson charged Prinzing and his former corporation for the incident, citing legal requirements regarding election complaints. Two of the three charges have been dropped

Affidavits from the two sides tell different stories on Prinzing’s dealings with law enforcement.

Prinzing affidavit said:

When then-Officer Frank Kohl returned the letters to Prinzing, Prinzing asked &uot;Well, where did you get them?

Who had them?&uot;

Kohl responded that &uot;I don’t have time to argue politics, get the letters out of the car,&uot; and later drove off, without talking to him about whether Schwab’s actions were theft.

In Prinzing’s discussion with Police Chief Tom Menning, Prinzing demanded an investigation by police.

Menning responded, &uot;Well, you got your letters back, didn’t you?&uot; and &uot;Why do you do this, Mal? Why are you raising this kind of Cain?&uot;

The conversation ended with Prinzing comparing the return of the letters to bank robbers returning money. To which Menning didn’t answer.

Nelson said he’d look into the matter, but &uot;Because of what you do for a living or what people think you doing for a living,&uot; he couldn’t make any promises.

Affidavits from all three men say that Prinzing’s interpretation of events has changed over the years.

Kohl said that much of the conversation with Prinzing was a one-sided tangent. He said he couldn’t say if he told Prinzing that Schwab’s actions weren’t theft.

&uot;It’s blown so far out of proportion. It didn’t start out to be big but Mal made it big,&uot; Kohl said.

Menning wouldn’t comment.

His affidavit never mentions whether he told Prinzing what Schwab did isn’t theft. His affidavit does say that facts were clear in the case that Schwab had no intention of keeping the letters from Prinzing.

Judge Joe Bueltel of Steele County has yet to rule on the matter. A court date for the trial is set in December.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at or 379-3438.)