By Starrla Cray
WATERTOWN, MN Following two years of courtroom proceedings, the sentencing hearing for Bert Hertzog of rural Winsted Tuesday resulted in a verdict that was a compromise between the recommendations of the prosecution and the defense.
Hertzog was sentenced to two days in jail and given a $500 fine for charges relating to falsifying inspection stickers, as well as an unrelated vehicle registration traffic citation. He will be on probation for two years.
In addition, Hertzog will have 30 days to pay a $50 court fee in connection to the vehicle registration traffic citation.
“I do think some jail consequence is appropriate,” said Wright County Assistant Attorney Brian Lutes, who asked that Hertzog receive 10 days of jail time.
Hertzog’s attorney, Thomas Shiah of Minneapolis, requested that Hertzog do community service instead, but it was not granted.
“Let him do something meaningful,” Shiah said. “Let him do something good for the community.”
Originally, Hertzog was charged with two felonies theft-by-swindle and aggravated forgery. It was later changed to the current charges of a gross misdemeanor for falsely making inspection decals, and two misdemeanors one of not having an inspector’s certification, and one for not being certified as an inspector.
The statute of falsely making inspection decals passed into law after Hertzog’s original sentencing, Lutes said, adding that this charge was a more accurate fit for his offense.
This lesser charge of making false inspection decals carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Hertzog was also charged with a vehicle registration traffic citation.
The motor registration offense and the failure to be properly certified as an inspector both carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Judge Michele Davis waived the “ex post facto” portion of the law and made a plea agreement under the new law.
Shiah said that the purpose of a sentence is to provide deterrence, rehabilitation, and punishment.
“He knew this was a bad idea, and he’s taken responsibility,” Shiah said. “I think he’s got the message.”
Hertzog had no previous criminal record, with the only citation being two prior speeding tickets, Lutes said.
“However, this went on for two years,” Lutes said. Previously in court, Hertzog admitted that during a period of time from 2005 to 2007, he knowingly issued false inspection stickers for trucks.
“He tried to conceal it,” Lutes said. “He knew what he was doing was wrong, and he did it anyway.”
“He chose to go down the bad route,” Shiah said.
Lutes said he doesn’t know Hertzog’s motivation for committing this offense, and said Hertzog’s actions were “unusual.”
“He probably could have gotten reinstated as an inspector if he had wanted to,” Lutes said.
Lutes checked into the price of inspection stickers to see if that cost had played a part in Hertzog’s decision to do false inspections. However, Lutes found that the price difference “was not a significant amount of money either way.”
The false stickers were printed at a cost of 50 cents each, while the official ones are $2 each, he said. Hertzog had a total of 1,841 false decals printed.
Hertzog went through a lot of effort to get the decals to look authentic, Lutes said. The only two differences in the legitimate vs. false was that the serial number is bold on the original stickers, and the month specified is underlined.
“This was a deliberate scheme,” Lutes said.
Hertzog charged between $40 and $60 per inspection, Lutes said. Hertzog performed several inspections, totaling more than $2,500, he added.
“I don’t have any evidence that he did a bad job,” Lutes said.
Hertzog was “decertified” in 2005, meaning that he could no longer perform annual inspections legally, because inspectors must be certified through the state patrol.