Lawyer challenges probable cause

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The lawyer of one of the two young women charged as an adult in the case of alleged abuse at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea is questioning probable cause for his client’s charges and whether those charges should have been filed in juvenile court instead of adult court.

The issues came forward during the contested omnibus hearing on Tuesday in Freeborn County District Court for 19-year-old Ashton Larson by her lawyer, Evan Larson of Austin.

Though Evan Larson was expected to also question the constitutionality of his client’s statements to investigators in the case, he did not raise that issue as a concern.

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The lawyer and Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson now have until the end of the business day on Sept. 14 to submit written arguments about the issues, after which the matter will be under advisement by District Court Judge Steve Schwab.

Evan Larson said based on incident dates, at least counts one through nine of Ashton Larson’s should have been filed in juvenile court because of her age at the time.

The young woman has been charged with two counts of assault in the fifth degree of a caregiver to a vulnerable adult, one count of criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult, four counts of criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult with sexual contact, two counts of disorderly conduct by a caregiver and one count of mandated reporter failure to report.

In response to the issues raised, Nelson submitted 10 exhibits to the court: The initial report by an officer with the Albert Lea Police Department, reports of Albert Lea detective Deb Flatness, a DVD of the interview between Ashton Larson, Flatness and Deputy Bob Kindler on May 6, 2008, reports of Kindler, a copy of Ashton Larson’s personnel record from Good Samaritan Society, the abuse and neglect policy of the nursing home, the interview data sheet by Minnesota Department of Health investigator Jolene Bertelsen, a cassette tape of the interview between Bertselsen and Ashton Larson, the public Department of Health report, and a diagram of bedrooms and nursing stations at Good Samaritan Society.

Nelson also asked Schwab to take judicial notice of the criminal complaint already filed with the court.

The hearing ended in less than 30 minutes with minimal discussion from both parties.

Almost one entire side of the courtroom was filled with family members of the alleged victims, who have made an extra effort to attend all hearings related to the case.

Freeborn County District Court Judge Steve Schwab ruled earlier this month against all motions by co-defendant Brianna Broitzman’s lawyer during his client’s contested omnibus hearing. One of the motions was also questioning probable cause.