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Serving life, kidnapper's appeal falls on deaf ears

OLIVIA -- The Minnesota Court of Appeals has denied Matthew Fahey's appeal seeking to withdraw his guilty plea in the kidnapping and sexual assault of a then-14-year-old Fairfax newspaper carrier in May 2010.

Fahey's second attorney, Richard Swanson of Chaska had filed the appeal, charging that the District Court erred by denying his motion for a competency examination after his guilty plea but prior to his sentencing.

In an unpublished ruling issued Monday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals sided with District Court Judge Randall Slieter. The record supports the District Court's finding that Fahey was competent to stand trial, according to the opinion issued by Chief Justice Matthew Johnson and Justices Terri Stoneburner and Louise Bjorkman.

Fahey, 27, is currently in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater serving a life sentence with no opportunity for parole until late 2043.

The District Court demonstrated that it had several opportunities to observe and question Fahey. His first set of attorneys did not move for a mental competency examination. His second attorney did not present any new evidence to warrant the examination when making the request prior to sentencing, the justices noted in the opinion accompanying the decision.

The record also suggests that Fahey could not make a mental illness defense, the justices stated.

He knew right from wrong when he performed his crimes, as evidenced by his actions. He confused the victim as to her location and hid her from view as he transported her. He dismantled her cell phone and tossed it in a ditch. After the assault and when leaving her at a remote location, he apologized.

The justices stated that the request for an examination under Rule 20 -- the court rule of criminal procedure that covers competency of mentally ill or mentally deficient defendants -- was fatally flawed by being made just before sentencing, and not prior to the trial. It simply came too late, noted the court.

"In essence, Fahey's new attorney, who was brought into the case after Fahey's guilt was determined, is second-guessing the strategy of Fahey's first set of attorneys,'' stated the justices in the ruling.

Renville County Assistant Attorney Glen Jacobsen prosecuted the case. He said he was pleased by the ruling.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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