Updated 4:10 p.m. Thursday
A driving while intoxicated charge against Jordan City Administrator Tom Nikunen was dropped earlier this month by Carver County prosecutors.
Nikunen was arrested at 4:33 a.m. on Feb. 7 in Jordan for fourth-degree DWI after failing a standardized field sobriety test, according to a citation from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department. Nikunen was arrested and transported to the Scott County Jail.
The case was handled by the Carver County District Attorney’s Office due to a conflict of interest in Scott County. On May 6, the DWI charge was dismissed, Nikunen pleaded guilty to a petty traffic misdemeanor related to his lights and fined $42 by Scott County District Judge Caroline Lennon. He also had to pay $130 in fees.
Nikunen's attorney, Christopher Perske, sent a statement to the Independent saying, "Mr. Nikunen was pleased that justice prevailed in the result recently reached in District Court. He would like to thank all of the people in the community who offered him support and well wishes."
Chief Deputy Carver County Attorney Peter Ivy said prosecutor Kevin Hill dismissed the charges because available evidence could not indicate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Nikunen was driving while above the legal level of intoxication. Hill’s decision was based on the fact that police observed no erratic driving and a DataMaster alcohol breath testing device registered Nikunen’s blood alcohol concentration at 0.05.
Ivy said police records show Nikunen failed to pass the field sobriety test because he lost balance before the test, made an improper turn and miscounted his steps in one instance.
Perske told the Independent after the dismissal, "This case is the perfect example to remind us that every individual enjoys the presumption of innocence afforded by the United States Constitution. That reminder is why it was so troubling that Mr. Nikunen's arrest and court information was available to social media and the newspaper before it was available to him or the general public."
The Independent's reporting on Nikunen's arrest was conducted through access to public court records.
"In this situation, Mr. Nikunen received greater and unnecessary scrutiny in a rush to judgment in the court of public opinion," he continued.
Shortly after the arrest, Perske told the Independent there was reason to doubt his client would be convicted of the misdemeanor.
“This information strongly suggests that Mr. Nikunen’s blood alcohol content tested below the legal threshold of 0.08 for a misdemeanor DUI charge,” Perske said in a prepared statement.
Nikunen was hired as city administrator in 2014 after serving as finance manager and interim administrator for six months.
He was previously cited for driving under the influence in Rosseau County in 1994 and for driving while intoxicated in Blue Earth in 2002, according to state court records. Perske said after his most recent arrest, “Mr. Nikunen acknowledges the existence of two prior offenses on his record, both of which occurred while he was in his 20s (21 and 28 years old respectively). These offenses are outside of the time frame that is relevant for legal consideration.”