Hearing delayed againNo one testified in a contested omnibus hearing Friday for Cloquet’s Clifford James Thompson. Instead, prosecution and defense attorneys agreed to submit written arguments to Sixth District Judge Dale Wolf by set deadlines.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
No one testified in a contested omnibus hearing Friday for Cloquet’s Clifford James Thompson. Instead, prosecution and defense attorneys agreed to submit written arguments to Sixth District Judge Dale Wolf by set deadlines.
Thompson, 56, is charged with aiding an offender/accomplice after the fact in the alleged murder of Cristyna Leah Watson, whose body was discovered Oct. 4 on land on or near Thompson’s home on Reservation Road in Cloquet.
The criminal complaint against Thompson alleges that he allowed alleged murderer Michael William Siewert to store and conceal controlled substances in a detached garage at his address. Investigators also learned that Thompson went to a neighbor’s house on the evening of Sept. 30 and borrowed a shovel.
Witnesses told investigators that Thompson used the shovel and also started a fire to conceal and destroy evidence that were allegedly connected to the homicide and may have connected the victim to defendants Siewert and Thompson.
According to the complaint charging Siewert, Thompson admitted that he allowed Siewert and others to use his property in an unlawful manner and that – on repeated occasions – he observed Siewert and a potential accomplice outside his residence in the woods where the victim’s body was eventually discovered.
Although Thompson has been in custody since Oct. 11, a previous omnibus hearing Nov. 16 was delayed because prosecution had not arranged testimony, although his bail was reduced from $100,000 to $75,000 at that hearing.
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler opened arguments at the rescheduled hearing Friday by noting he received “fairly significant materials” from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Thursday and Friday morning, discovery he had shared with defense attorney Joanna Wiegert by driving it to her office Thursday and at the Carlton County Courthouse Friday morning.
“I’m expecting additional lab analysis results,” Pertler said. “And I’ve not received final protocol [autopsy results] from the medical examiner’s office.”
Wiegert reiterated previous concerns Friday that Thompson had been charged prematurely, pointing out that evidence in the case has been “trickling in.”
“At some point I need to know what evidence they intend to use against my client,” Wiegert said. “By law we should have all evidence by omnibus.”
Wiegert presented two motions Friday. The first asked the judge order all evidence surrendered from law enforcement; the second motion asked the prosecution be barred from using any evidence gained after the Nov. 30 omnibus hearing.
“We haven’t gotten an autopsy report with a date or time of death,” Wiegert said. “We have no evidence that the body was on Mr. Thompson’s property – just that it was in proximity to his home.”
Wolf responded, noting the volume of evidence in most major cases causes difficulty and only the evidence needed for probable cause, meaning probable cause for charging the defendant, is needed by the omnibus hearing.
“Obviously both sides may need to supplement their witness list or add new evidence [as the case proceeds],” Wolf said.
He suggested the two sides proceed on the sole issue of probable cause.
Because neither side had time to thoroughly go through the most recent evidence, Pertler suggested, and Wiegert agreed, that both sides would file letter briefs instead of arguing the case in court Friday. Wolf gave Pertler until Dec. 19 to file his brief with the arguments for probable cause, and Wiegert has until Jan. 11 to file her rebuttal.
The judge said he would review Wiegert’s request that Thompson be released from jail after he receives the brief from the Carlton County Attorney’s office and denied release before then, explaining later that an argument on bail “depends on how strong the state’s case is.”
Neither the defense nor the prosecution introduced witnesses Friday, and Thompson also declined to testify on his own behalf.
During the hearing, Wolf noted that Thompson recently received notice the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa had terminated his lease right to the property on Reservation Road.