Tenth District Judge Melissa Saterbak ordered that corrections officer Anthony Pietrzak not have any direct contact with Lino Lakes inmate Dane Michael Vandervoort and that he not be within Vandervoort's assigned prison unit at the Lino Lakes facility.
Judge Saterbak also ordered Pietrzak not to have any indirect contact with Vandervoort unless it was incidental contact only as necessary for employment purposes. The order is in effect until Sept. 3, 2022.
In Saterbak's decision, she wrote that the case "comes down to one of credibility," and that Pietrzak's "actions had, or were intended to have, a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security or privacy of (Vandervoort)."
During a hearing conducted Friday over Zoom video software, Vandervoort outlined several instances in which he alleges Pietrzak made several threats against him and called him an anti-gay slur, "f---ing idiot" and "stupid." Vandervoort also said Pietrzak would grab his own genitals and nod at Vandervoort.
Vandervoort said in court that Pietrzak "promotes a combative environment" in the prison and that Pietrzak allegedly said he could "do anything (he) wants because (he's) the union president."
"The Court questions how (Vandervoort) would have learned of (Pietrzak's) position within the union if (Pietrzak) had not used his status as union president to threaten (Vandervoort)."
Pietrzak, a 17-year veteran of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, denied those allegations. He was represented by Jeanine Putnam, associate general counsel for the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Putnam argued in court that many of the allegations against Pietrzak are part of his job.
Vandervoort said in court that he believes Pietrzak's harassment and threats stem from a complaint Vandervoort filed against Pietrzak for throwing away a pair of Vandervoort's sunglasses.
Judge Saterbak wrote in her order that she finds Vandervoort's testimony credible.
Austin Neese, Minnesota Department of Corrections director of the Office of Professional Accountability, was called by Putnam to testify Friday and said that Pietrzak's comments would be considered policy violations. Citing Minnesota privacy laws, Neese declined to comment about any possible internal investigation against Pietrzak.
Saterbak wrote in her order that it was unclear what relevance Neese's testimony had to the case as he does not work at the Lino Lakes facility and he is not conducting the open internal investigation by the Office of Professional Accountability.
Minnesota Department of Corrections Director of Communications and Community Engagement Nicholas Kimball wrote in an email Tuesday that Pietrzak is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
According to Kimball, Pietrzak has a resolved complaint from March 2014, though he did not say if there was any disciplinary action associated with that complaint, and the one active complaint that is pending.
"We received the order and are reviewing it to determine possible next steps. We will, of course, fully comply with the terms of the order in the meantime," Kimball wrote.
A public records request from the West Central Tribune for the number of complaints filed at the correctional facility and the status of those complaints is currently pending.
Vandervoort was convicted in Renville County District Court of three felony assault charges. He is expected to be released in March 2023, according to online Department of Corrections records.
According to the complaint filed against Vandervoort in the Renville County case, he had sent threatening text messages to a former girlfriend on March 16, 2019, in Renville County, telling her to call people and tell them he was “taking everyone to hell tonight.”
Later that day he allegedly entered a house and brandished a handgun against his former girlfriend and her friend. He engaged in a struggle with a Fairfax police officer who responded to the home after the victim sent a text for help. Vandervoort confronted the officer and pointed a handgun at him from four to five feet away before the two struggled.