A district judge’s ruling in the Minnesota Renaissance Festival rape case could undermine the victim’s credibility and violate state law, the Scott County Attorney’s Office told the Minnesota Court of Appeals last week.
Assistant Scott County Attorney Todd Zettler on Wednesday, Nov. 6, asked appellate judges to overturn District Judge Rex Stacey’s April decision allowing defendant Carr Hagerman of Richfield to use his alleged victim’s medical records, which include a disclosure of a separate sexual assault, in his defense.
“It has no bearing or showing that her current allegation against Mr. Hagerman is false” and is irrelevant to the case, Zettler told Judges Carol Hooten, Matthew Johnson and Tracy Smith.
Hagerman, 61, is the festival’s former entertainment director and has pleaded not guilty to two felony criminal sexual conduct charges after investigators said he beat and raped a freelance photographer working at the festival in September 2017.
Piper Wold, Hagerman’s defense attorney, said the point isn’t to cast doubt on the victim’s separate rape accusation.
“Our intention is to show that the complainant’s story about what she says took place with respect to Mr. Hagerman changed,” Wold said. “I think there’s a distinction there, and it might be subtle, but to a criminal defendant, it’s important.”
The court of appeals could reach a decision by early next year.
In March, Wold asked Stacey for permission to tell jurors about the victim’s disclosure to a psychiatrist of a second rape between the September incident and her report to police about Hagerman on Nov. 7, 2017.
Wold argued that jurors should hear that the victim didn’t inform police of the second alleged rape and made inconsistent statements to police. Stacey ruled that Hagerman’s right to a defense outweighed the state’s rape-shield law, which limits discussion of a sexual assault victim’s prior sexual history in court.
Former Assistant Scott County Attorney Nelson Rhodus argued bringing in details about the second alleged assault would be tantamount to claiming one or both of the victim’s allegations were false and asked Stacey to reconsider.
There’s no evidence that the victim wasn’t being truthful, and allowing the records would be more damaging to the victim than beneficial to Hagerman, Rhodus said.
Stacey reaffirmed his decision in June, writing in a memo that “the court is extremely reluctant to, in effect, find that complainant likely fabricated the other sexual assault claim.”
The county attorney filed a motion in the Minnesota Court of Appeals soon after.