Off Beat

New Stadium: $57.50

SAY WHAT YOU will about the Star Tribune; it's a reliable source of edification. In a recent Sunday edition, for example, Off Beat found an insert peddling a mini-replica of our very own Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. "This stunning replica will be admired by all who see it displayed in your home or office," the ad touts. Now how much would you pay? (Don't answer yet. Did we mention that "the handsome display base is included at no extra charge"?) The price: a mere $57.50 (plus $7.50 for shipping). Unfortunately, this NFL-licensed model from the Danbury Mint of Norwalk, Connecticut, is no dual-use facility: Pull off the (removable!) dome and you'll find that the stadium is outfitted for football only. No baseball. No monster truck rallies. Not only that, but the timing of the sales pitch strikes us as a little odd--Vikings owner Billy Joe "Red" McCombs has made it clear he wants out of the Metrodome. When Off Beat dialed the Danbury Mint's 1-800 number, a sales representative informed us that a baseball-layout model is available for the same price. After making it clear that she wasn't commenting as a spokeswoman for the company, the rep added that the Vikings have not alerted the mint regarding the team's stadium plans.

A Bit of a Stretch

THE OTHER DAY a diminutive source returned from her pre-kindergarten class at the Cavanagh Early Childhood Center in Crystal wearing a bright yellow rubber band around her wrist, emblazoned with the phrases "I AM A *"; "Getting Ready for K" (as in kindergarten); and "MN DFL." Which set us to wondering: Who's passing out partisan office supplies in a public school? Our inquiries led us to Don Fraser, chair of the DFL Education Foundation (and former mayor of Minneapolis), who tells Off Beat that his group had the rubber bands printed up for last year's state fair as a way of promoting pre-K schooling. "I think one of our committees solicited the party to pay for them," Fraser recalls, adding that the foundation is technically a separate entity. Leftovers from the DFL's fair booth later turned up at an education conference, where they caught the eye of a Cavanagh staffer, according to Steve Browender, director of community relations for the Robbinsdale Area Schools. "These things were out on a table that anybody could take," Browender explains. "An aide thought that would be kind of cool for the kids to have." Noting the political content of the message, the aide kept the bands in a drawer until after the election, then handed them out to about 30 youngsters earlier this month. Adds Browender: "Looking back on it, she wishes she hadn't done it."

You Be the Judge

THE MINNESOTA COURT of Appeals reversed an indecent-conduct conviction last week, on the grounds that the trial judge should have granted the defendant a hearing on whether St. Paul police unfairly target gay men. Steven Pinkal was cited for public masturbation on July 6, 1999, on Pieffer's Beach, a secluded stretch of Mississippi River shoreline. He denied the charge, but a jury found him guilty last January and Ramsey County District Court Judge Edward Wilson sentenced him to 40 days' community service. (Pinkal's arrest was the subject of "Out in the Open," an October 27, 1999, story by Burl Gilyard.) While he's pleased with the ruling, Pinkal's attorney Kyle White is also disappointed it didn't go further. Specifically, although the court agreed with White that the trial judge had erred in allowing the prosecutor to question Pinkal about his religious beliefs and his HIV status--and then to twist his answers during closing arguments--the three-judge panel found that the cumulative effect of those errors was "harmless." Here's what St. Paul City Prosecutor Eric Sagvold had to say to the jury during his closing statement: "We had heard defendant testimony that he is HIV-positive....He also then told us that masturbation is a safer form of sex....That would give defendant a motive to masturbate." And later: "...[E]ven though he was a Baptist and had those beliefs...he doesn't he's not bound by what his religion told him to do and hence, that would not prevent him from masturbation in a public park." Sums up White: "I asked jurors if what he said influenced their decision and they said yes. I think it made a huge difference in their finding him guilty." Deputy St. Paul City Attorney George Stephenson tells Off Beat his office has no plans to pursue the matter; though Pinkal completed his sentence, his record will now reflect the fact that his conviction was reversed.