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Man sentenced to prison in rural Swift County burglary, alleged probation violations pending

The man convicted in a Swift County burglary in January was sentenced to prison, and probation violations are alleged in three past burglary convictions that resulted in stayed prison sentences.

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BENSON — A 37-year-old man is serving a three-year prison sentence after a felony conviction for third-degree burglary of a rural Benson residence.

Robert Eric Lee pleaded guilty and was sentenced April 7 in Swift County District Court to 36 months on the burglary charge and 28 months on a fifth-degree drug possession charge, to run concurrently. He was given credit for 91 days already served.

Probation violations are alleged against Lee in three other past burglary convictions in Pope and Douglas counties that resulted in stayed prison sentences, which could potentially be executed by the court following a hearing.

Recent court records show Lee with addresses in Benson, Baxter, Brainerd and Alexandria. He is currently held in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud.

Robert Eric Lee custody photo
Robert Eric Lee
Custody photo

Lee was charged in January in Swift County District Court with second-degree burglary of a dwelling, fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of giving a peace officer a false name. Under a plea agreement, Lee pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree burglary and the original drug charge. The gross misdemeanor was dismissed.

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According to the criminal complaint, a homeowner reported a burglar alarm Jan. 6 and told a Swift County sheriff’s deputy that he had video and photos of someone breaking in. The deputy found vehicles stuck in a snowdrift near the residence and footprints around the home and outbuildings. A screen was cut near the door of the house, and a wrench was lying in the snow.

The deputy then encountered a man and woman. Due to cold weather, they were each placed in squad vehicles.

Officers entered the home and found cupboards and drawers opened, power tools in various places other than the basement where the homeowner said they were usually stored and an open window.

A hypodermic needle that tested positive for methamphetamine was found inside, and an orange cap for a hypodermic needle was found outside. A baggie and an orange cap that tested positive for methamphetamine were found in the police car where Lee was sitting.

Lee initially gave officers a false name, according to the complaint, and declined to speak with officers when they attempted to interview him. He was later positively identified by a Minnesota Driver and Vehicles Services photo.

According to the complaint, the woman asked to speak with law enforcement and said Lee had told her to lie about his name due to his active warrants. A charge of aiding and abetting burglary is pending against her.

Online court records show Lee is scheduled to appear for a probation violation hearing on May 12 in Douglas County District Court for two burglary convictions stemming from cases filed in 2018 and 2019.

A probation violation report has been filed in a Pope County burglary conviction against him in a 2019 case, but no hearing dates are listed on the court website.

Susan Lunneborg is the news editor of the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. A journalist for more than 25 years, she has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Lunneborg can be reached at: slunneborg@wctib.com or 320-214-4343.
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The Tribune publishes Records as part of its obligation to inform readers about the business of public institutions and to serve as a keeper of the local historical record. All items are written by Tribune staff members based on information contained in public documents from the state court system and from law enforcement agencies. It is the Tribune’s policy that this column contain a complete record. Requests for items to be withheld will not be granted.