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Kandiyohi County prosecutor: Alleged teenage robber carried loaded gun, belongs in adult court

WILLMAR -- Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney Stephen Wentzell says a judge made the right choice to move the armed robbery and stolen firearm cases against a juvenile suspect to adult court.

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WILLMAR -- Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney Stephen Wentzell says a judge made the right choice to move the armed robbery and stolen firearm cases against a juvenile suspect to adult court.

Frederick Crispin Rodriguez allegedly used a loaded weapon in an October robbery in Willmar, and those actions “logically suggest a willingness to fire it at another human being,” Wentzell wrote in a response to an appeal.

He also wrote that Rodriguez told his accomplices in the robbery of the convenience store and neighboring liquor store that he would fire at police officers if they arrived.

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“The district court found that Appellant’s actions ‘strongly suggest’ that Appellant was willing to kill others in order to successfully rob the stores and escape no matter who got in Appellant’s way,” Wentzell wrote.

Rodriguez was 17 in October when he is alleged to have robbed Willmar’s Sunray Express Convenience Store and Sunray Spirits liquor store with three other men. Witnesses said two men entered each store.

Rodriguez is also accused of stealing multiple firearms, some of which were used in the robbery. One of the firearms was allegedly stolen from a Minnesota State Patrol trooper’s vehicle.

In February and March, Kandiyohi County District Judge Donald Spilseth had moved the juvenile court proceedings in the two cases to adult court, ruling that they were serious enough for adult certification.

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Rodriguez and his attorney John Mack disagreed, filing an appeal of the judge’s decision June 9.

Wentzell’s response was filed July 8 in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Mack had argued that the case should instead fall under what is called extended juvenile jurisdiction, a sort of blended sentencing under which an adult sentence is pronounced when a defendant is convicted but is stayed in favor of a juvenile disposition instead.

In this way, the juvenile courts can maintain jurisdiction over an offender until he or she turns 21 years old.

And the adult sentence may be imposed if an offender fails to meet the conditions of the juvenile disposition.

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In his response last week, Wentzell wrote that extended juvenile jurisdiction just is not severe enough for this case.

The 41 months left until Rodriguez turns 21 and therefore leaves the system, he wrote, “does not adequately address public safety in comparison to an adult sentence which would allow for up to 25 years of supervised probation.”

Mack had written in Rodriguez’s initial appeal that Rodriguez deserved a lighter sentence than the other adult suspects in the robbery. He said Rodriguez has a “minimal” prior juvenile record, and deserves one last chance.

Wentzell responded that the seriousness of the robbery and gun charges transcend Rodriguez’s minimal past record.

Mack had argued that the district court did not adequately consider the option of using extended juvenile jurisdiction, and did not consider the fact that Rodriguez is younger than the other suspects in the robbery, who are all facing extensive prison time.

Wentzell disputed that.

“Appellant does not allege any errors in the court’s findings but instead appears focused on arguments which are speculative, unfounded or inappropriate for consideration,” he wrote. The district court did not err “in its determination and did not abuse its discretion in ordering certification of both of these matters.”

Rodriguez’s case in the Minnesota Court of Appeals will now be scheduled for an oral argument before the court on an expedited basis.


The court’s final decision on the case, determining whether Rodriguez will stay in adult court or revert to juvenile jurisdiction, will be filed no more than 60 days after the argument.

Related Topics: CRIME
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