Venue change sought in Wagar case
WILLMAR -- Citing pre-trial publicity, the Kandiyohi County Attorney's office is seeking a change of venue in the case of Scott Wagar, the rural Willmar man charged in a homecoming incident that included spraying teens with a squirt gun filled with water and fox urine.
In a motion filed Tuesday, the change of venue is requested on the grounds that "numerous articles in the West Central Tribune regarding this case including letters from the defendant and his family, interviews with the defendant all discussing inadmissible evidence concerning unrelated incidents from past years ... numerous letters to the editor from community demonstrating a clear misunderstanding of the applicable facts and law. Calls from the defendant for the citizens of Kandiyohi County to 'mob' the courthouse undermining the authority of the court, as most recently in the article published on the Front Page of the Willmar Tribune January 20, 2009.
The pre-trial publicity in the present case has made it impossible to select a jury of impartial citizens without a change of venue and guarantee a fair trial for all parties."
Wagar, 50, faces misdemeanor charges of fifth-degree assault, theft and disorderly conduct for the Sept. 16 incident. The allegations include that he sprayed the teens with water and fox urine, got into a wrestling match with one of the teens and demanded $100 for a cell phone he found after the incident.
Wagar's attorney, Doug Kluver, said Friday he doesn't think either the change of venue motion or another motion, seeking to prevent him from introducing into evidence other alleged incidents outside of the charges in this case, will be successful.
Kluver says he will appeal any order to bar evidence of past aggressions by homecoming vandals, because he is seeking to show Wagar's state of mind. Wagar says bands of teenagers have come to his place each homecoming for the past eight years.
Kluver called the change of venue motion "bizarre" in that the prosecution doesn't believe it can get a fair trial in its own county. Usually, the defense makes the motion for a change of venue. "This is the first in Minnesota jurisprudence," he said, to move a misdemeanor case at the request of the county prosecutor.
The defense attorney, who took Wagar's case this week, says that he was surprised that no other attorney had asked to represent Wagar. "I became an attorney in 2003, and didn't get into law to watch good people be shoved through the system without proper representation."
Kluver said he expects to request an evidentiary hearing, during which the court will decide if there is enough evidence, or probable cause, for the charges. He also said the state "use of force" statute outlines that a person can use reasonable force against someone trespassing on their property and that fox urine, a natural substance, is not harmful or unreasonable.
"It seems like the Legislature has already decided this issue," he said.
Kluver expects to argue the motions at Wagar's next court date, which is Feb. 3 before Judge Michael J. Thompson in Kandiyohi County District Court.
County Attorney Boyd Beccue has previously declined to discuss the case, as it is not the office's policy to discuss pending cases.