Off Beat

Sentencing Options Dino Guerin Wasn't Offered

ON FRIDAY, JULY 28, Dakota County District Judge Richard Spicer gave Ramsey County commissioner Dino Guerin two sentencing options after Guerin admitted kiting more than $35,000 in bad checks last fall to finance his gambling addiction: 1) no jail time, but a felony conviction that would remove him from office and prevent him from running again for a long time, or 2) resignation and 15 days in the hoosegow, but no felony conviction and therefore no prohibition on seeking elected office. Guerin selected Door Number Two. After court was adjourned, Off Beat found a crumpled scrap of paper under Spicer's chair, the contents of which (see below) indicate that the judge had whittled his list down considerably:

1) Heads gross misdemeanor, tails felony.

2) Judge holds out both hands. One holds a poker chip. If Dino chooses chip: gross misdemeanor. No chip: felony.

3) Judge and Dino draw cards. High card determines sentence.

4) Judge thinks of a number between 1 and 30. If Dino guesses the number, judge subtracts that many days from his jail time.

5) Dino and prosecutor shoot craps to determine restitution.

6) Dino chooses between felony conviction and having fellow Ramsey County commissioners paddle his backside for an hour (on public-access TV).

7) Dino gets gross misdemeanor, but on future ballots must run as Dino "Bad Checks" Guerin.

8) Two pull tabs: one opens to reveal the word "felony," the other, "gross misdemeanor."

9) Judge waives felony conviction. Dino writes "PAYBACK'S A BITCH" 500 times on a blackboard.

10) Dino gets gross misdemeanor on the condition that he move to Hennepin County and get involved in politics.

The Lyden Chronicles, Take 1

IT ISN'T OFTEN that a TV reporter gets face time on rival stations, but that's what happened to KMSP-TV's Tom Lyden last week. You may recall that the Channel 9 reporter ran afoul of the law in April as he was investigating St. Paul boxer Will Grigsby's alleged involvement in illegal dogfighting. While visiting a rural Sherburne County property where authorities had been gathering evidence against the former flyweight champ, Lyden spotted a videocassette in an unlocked car--and took it. The station turned over the tape, which contained footage of pit bulls at war, to local authorities, but not before copying its contents to air along with Lyden's report. Lyden was charged with theft and roundly pilloried by the local journalism community for his ethical lapse. Last Tuesday in Elk River he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of tampering with a motor vehicle, in exchange for a $500 fine plus 50 hours of community service. How did it feel to be on the other side of the camera? "I think you can appreciate I'm not in a position to be judgmental about the coverage," Lyden tells Off Beat. "But basically I think the coverage was fair. And I think it was a good story, with enough interesting elements that I would have loved to report on it myself if the situation were reversed." That said, Lyden ironically notes that rival stations were more than happy to broadcast gory images from the tape in their reports about his transgression.

The Lyden Chronicles, Take 2

HAVING SPOKEN TO Tom Lyden about his misadventures in Sherburne County, Off Beat thought we'd look into whether authorities there now intend to use the stolen tape as evidence against Will Grigsby, the St. Paul boxer accused of holding dogfights. After Lyden snatched the tape, Sherburne County Attorney Walter Kaminsky had voiced concern that the evidence might be tainted, but he's more sanguine today. "We maintain that Lyden was not working for us, and that this is not how we conduct business and therefore we should not be penalized," says Kaminsky. "If he hadn't pled, it would have made it harder to lay a foundation." The matter is expected to come up at Grigsby's next hearing, on September 5. Meantime, prosecutors are debating what kind of community service to request for Lyden. "Should we ask him to pick up garbage along Highway 169?" Kaminsky muses. "Should he work at a nursing home? Should he work outside the county, like at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis?" Have prosecutors considered asking Lyden to teach journalism ethics to student reporters? "We explored that," Kaminsky replies. "But I'm not sure he gets it. He's kind of a smart-ass, I think."

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