Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 25, 2003

Borrell pleads not guilty to false campaign advertising

By Julie Yurek

Both sides of the court case pertaining to Rep. Dick Borrell presented oral arguments Tuesday, where he entered a plea of not guilty.

Borrell is charged with two gross misdemeanor counts of false political campaign advertising relating to the 2002 fall election in which he was elected.

Borrell's attorney, Mark Wersal argued that the words in Borrell's campaign pamphlet should be interpreted individually.

Wersal also argued that the case should be dismissed for three reasons: improper statements made to the grand jury, the constitutionality of the statute with which he is charged, and no probable cause.

The state misled the grand jury by not letting them use their common sense and a dictionary, Wersal said.

Wersal also raised the issue of the constitutionality of the statute, saying it is "overbroad," he said.

"The state has the burden of proof, not my client," he added.

Meeker County Prosecutor Michael Thompson's gave a timetable of events, saying that Borrell had been made aware that there was no probable cause in the complaint against his opponent Darren Knight, and that Borrell had ample time to stop the pamphlets from being mailed to more than 11,000 homes.

By adding in the word "criminal" before complaint in the pamphlet, Borrell started the investigation, which only a county attorney can do, Thompson said.

Borrell could have used the term "election law complaint" instead, Thompson said.

"There is 'no right to lie' in the constitution," he said.

"Mr. Borrell disseminated material about Mr. Knight knowing it was false," Thompson said.

Thompson also pointed out that Borrell's literature contained the same statute that Wersal argued against in the first place.

Thompson asked the court to deny Wersal's motion for dismissal and send the case onto trial.

Thompson has three weeks to write a brief regarding Wersal's argument, Thompson said. After Thompson's brief is submitted, Wersal has an opportunity to submit a response, he said.

Wright County Judge Stephen M. Halsey will then make a decision on the defendant's motions, Thompson said.

If Halsey denies the motion, the case proceeds to a pre-trial hearing.

A pre-trial date was set Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 1:30 p.m. Setting a pre-trial date is to keep the case moving forward, Thompson said.


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