By Lynda Jensen
BUFFALO, MN During Wright County 10th District courtroom proceedings in Buffalo last Monday, Bert Hertzog of Winsted pleaded guilty to charges relating to falsifying inspection stickers, as well as an unrelated vehicle registration traffic citation.
Hertzog admitted in court that during a period of time from 2005 to 2007, he issued inspection stickers for trucks, despite knowing that they were not legitimate.
This is expected to result in 10 days of jail time, and a fine, predicted Wright County Assistant Attorney Brian Lutes. The reason for this is because Hertzog is not considered a threat to public safety, or in custody. This court case is not a high profile case, he added.
Hertzog’s actual sentencing date has yet to take place, but the state has insisted that some jail time be served. It is possible that Hertzog could be sentenced community service, according to courtoom discussion.
Hertzog was initially charged with two felonies theft-by-swindle and aggravated forgery. This was changed to lesser charges of a gross misdemeanor of falsely making inspection decals, and two misdemeanors one of not having an inspector’s certification and another for not being certified as an inspector. The vehicle registration traffic citation took place independently of the other offenses.
The statute of falsely making inspection decals was actually passed into law last year, “perhaps even because of this case,” Lutes said. This law didn’t exist at the time that Hertzog committed the offenses.
Therefore, during courtroom proceedings, Hertzog and his attorney Thomas Shiah of Minneapolis, asked Judge Michele Davis to waive the “ex post facto” portion of the law and make a plea agreement under the new law, since it was a lesser charge and carried less intensive penalties.
Lutes said that the new law fits Hertzog’s case perfectly, since the other felony charges were more geared toward people who fake social security cards and the like, which are considered more serious.
If the case had followed its previous course, Hertzog was scheduled for a jury trial, as well as an omnibus hearing for the vehicle registration portion.
Hertzog acknowledged that he will not be able to appeal the decision in court that day, and it was agreed in court by both parties that this will be end of the legal issues for this matter, which has dragged on for nearly two years.
Lutes has noted in the past that one accident was traced back to a truck inspected by Hertzog; that of a pregnant woman who went through a stop sign. The truck’s brakes were found to be in working order, and the cause of the accident was failure to yield to a stop sign.
As is the protocol for such cases, the judge did not officially accept Hertzog’s guilty pleas, in order to give counsel enough time to make a pre-sentence investigation, Lutes said.
During Hertzog’s sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, June 26, the judge will officially accept the pleas and then impose sentencing in one action, Lutes explained. This allows the court to review records and supply information to the judge for sentencing.
The charge of making false inspection decals carries a penalty of a fine up to $3,000 and up to one year in jail.
The motor registration offense and the failure to be properly certified as an inspector both carry a penalty of 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.