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Sentence remains unknown in Renville Co., Minn., man's spree

OLIVIA -- Matthew James Wrobleski's sentence for crimes allegedly committed in Renville County during a multi-county spree last summer remains unknown following a second sentencing hearing Thursday in District Court in Olivia.

Wrobleski, 38, is currently serving a 24-month sentence in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Moose Lake for a check forgery conviction in Kandiyohi County.

He arrived in court in Renville County facing two choices reached as part of a plea agreement for motor vehicle theft, second-degree burglary and felon in possession of a gun.

Wrobleski could serve a se-ntence re-quiring 45 months in prison followed by 92 months of supervised probation.

Or, he could execute a likely 71-month prison sentence, with the potential of reducing the time served by participating in a Department of Corrections "boot camp'' at the Moose Lake facility.

Instead, Wrobleski and his attorney, George Hulstrand Jr., of Willmar, challenged the terms of the April 23 plea agreement.

They told the court that Wrobleski waived his right to a jury hearing on whether aggravating conditions existed for an upward departure -- a more severe sentence that recommended under sentencing guidelines -- for his conviction of being a felon in possession of a gun, the most serious of the charges he faced.

But they said he did not waive his rights to a hearing on whether aggravating conditions existed for an upward departure in the sentence for motor vehicle theft, which could bring the maximum, 71-month prison term due to his criminal history.

They asked the court to convene a jury to consider whether or not the aggravating factors existed. Known as a Blakely hearing, it is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19. It would be held in Lac qui Parle County, since the court had previously approved a change of venue in the criminal charges against him.

Along with scheduling the jury hearing, District Judge Randall Slieter also ordered that a transcript of Wrobleski's previous hearings in Renville County be prepared and reviewed. Renville County Assistant Attorney Laurence Stratton said the transcript may show that Wrobleski had waived his right to a Blakely hearing on the motor vehicle theft charge too.

If the transcripts support that, the jury hearing would not be held and the court would return to the two sentencing options.

If a jury hearing is held, the prosecution would argue that an upward departure is warranted due to the harm allegedly inflicted on multiple victims.

Wrobleski originally faced 14 charges in Renville County for offenses ranging from theft and burglary to financial card fraud and fleeing police. Alleged victims of those charges -- many of which had been dismissed as part of the plea agreement -- would be called to testify.

Stratton put the defendant on notice that his challenge to the plea agreement could be considered a rejection of it. The county reserves its right to reject the pleas and bring the original charges before a jury, he said.

It was also noted during the hearing that restitution issues in the charges are yet to be determined, including Wrobleski's share of responsibility for more than $18,000 worth of damage against several victims.

Tom Cherveny

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

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