Crowded court calendar includes Cloquet woman accused of vehicular homicideVanessa Rae Brigan, 26, of Cloquet appeared in Carlton County Court on Wednesday for felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide. Also appearing Wednesday were Cody Logan Fohrenkam, accused of arson, and Kristine Marie Lyons, on charges of DWI. Forrest Michael St. John, 20, also appeared on two charges.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Vanessa Rae Brigan, 26, of Cloquet appeared in Carlton County Court on Wednesday for a scheduled non-contested omnibus hearing. Brigan is facing two felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide while under the influence of a controlled substance in connection with a crash that killed two Carlton County Highway Department workers near Wright on Oct. 1 on her way back from a methadone clinic in Brainerd.
Brigan’s attorney, John Lind, told Judge Dale Wolf that discovery in the case is still coming in and requested that a contested testimonial omnibus be set for a future date. He reminded the judge that Brigan had waived her right to a speedy omnibus on Oct. 15 and indicated that she continues to waive that right.
Lind further indicated that several statements had been taken from Brigan during the course of the investigation and indicated she was not issued the Miranda Warning stating that what she said could be used as evidence against her in a court of law. Assistant County Attorney Michael Boese responded by saying that issues other than probable cause must be put into written form. Judge Wolf directed Lind to comply.
A tentative date at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, was set for Brigan’s next appearance.
Brigan also faces a misdemeanor charge of driving with no proof of insurance. Frank Yetka, attorney for the city of Cloquet, indicated that Brigan has been in custody long enough to resolve that issue but agreed to wait until her other charge has been dealt with before any further action is taken.
Alleged arsonist pleads not guilty
In other cases to come before the court on Wednesday, accused arsonist Cody Logan Fohrenkam, 20, of Cloquet entered a provisional plea of not guilty during a scheduled omnibus hearing. Fohrenkam faces charges of first-degree arson, third-degree criminal damage to property and obstructing the legal process in relation to a fire he allegedly set on Oct. 28 in Cloquet. One of the residents of the home had told police following the incident that although she wasn’t familiar with Fohrenkam and another man seen running from the scene, she speculated it could have been a gang-related incident.
Defense Attorney Fred Friedman indicated to Judge Wolf that based on the discovery, he found no evidence of obstruction of the legal process and no probable cause to charge Fohrenkam with that crime. He further stated that the man who was reportedly with Fohrenkam the day of the incident – and who gave information to police implicating Fohrenkam in setting the arson fire – had later bragged on Facebook, saying “I burn [sic] down Native Mob’s house today an [sic] smashed out they [sic] windows.”
“I want to know what incentive did law enforcement give to [the alleged accomplice], who is supposed to be the key witness in this case?” demanded Friedman.
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler responded that he did not have that information and would talk with police to find out.
Fohrenkam’s next hearing is set for Monday, Dec. 10, at 9 a.m.
School board member appears
Kristine Marie Lyons, 59, appeared for an omnibus hearing on two gross misdemeanor counts of operating a motor vehicle while having an alcohol concentration of over .08. Lyons, the chairwoman of the Moose Lake School Board, has had a string of similar DWI offenses that stretch back as far as 1992.
Attorney David Keegan, who represented Lyons, informed Judge Wolf that Lyons has waived her right to an omnibus hearing and has requested a settlement hearing, believing it is not necessary for the case to go on to a jury trial. The settlement hearing is set for Monday, Jan. 7.
Man caught on reservation land
Forrest Michael St. John, 20, of West Duluth, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trespassing on the Fond du Lac Reservation after being picked up by law enforcement authorities the same night – and in the same vicinity – that Patrick Lussier allegedly fired a shot at two people in the 1700 block of Blue Spruce Drive in west Cloquet last Sunday (see related story in this week’s issue of the Pine Journal). The reservation has issued an order of exclusion against St. John, which means he is banned from being on reservation land.
According to the complaint filed against St. John, while officers were responding to the shooting incident, they located St. John hiding in the woods at approximately 3:30 a.m. with a high-capacity magazine containing .223- caliber rounds. He told authorities at the time that he uses it for protection against the Native Mob, claiming he was shot at in Duluth Nov. 4. In court on Wednesday, however, St. John claimed he found the clip on the side of the road the night of his arrest and added that he didn’t know anything about the shooting incident going on in the area that same night. He told Judge Wolf that he had been visiting a friend in the vicinity and was taking a trail through the woods to another friend’s house at the time he was apprehended.
St. John has 35 prior warrants against him and 33 prior charges, including 11 fifth-degree assaults and two felony receiving stolen property charges.
Judge Wolf sentenced St. John to 90 days in jail on the trespass charge, with 70 days stayed and credit for three days already served. He also ordered total compliance with the order of exclusion and no violations of the law whatsoever.
Representing himself on Wednesday, St. John pleaded not guilty to a second charge of fleeing police and will remain in custody until being heard on that charge at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21.