Attorneys set record straight on prostitution case
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler said he made the decision in early March to dismiss his appeal of Judge Dale Wolf's decision in the prostitution case involving Ronald Scinocca Jr. of Duluth after discussing it with his colleagues, not with the Minnesota Court of Appeals as reported in last week's issue of the Pine Journal.
"There are very definite rules against the court of appeals communicating with appellants at this stage of the process, and I would never do that," said Pertler.
He explained his decision to withdraw the appeal was based on reluctance to establish "bad law" that might set an unwise precedent for lesser incidents, and also on the fact that it could be costly for the city of Cloquet.
"Another consideration that goes into any appeal by the state is that no matter what the outcome, there is a rule that requires the municipality to pay the attorney fees for the defendant, so the city of Cloquet would have to pay Bill [Sullivan] his fees in any event, win lose or draw," said Pertler.
Additional confusion surrounded the appeal as well. It seems that Pertler's communication to the appellate court notifying them of his decision to withdraw the appeal had, for some reason, never gotten sent by his office. By the time he resent it on March 28, the court had already dismissed the appeal based on Pertler's failure to file a timely brief in the case.
Duluth attorney Bill Sullivan, who represents Scinocca, said on March 7, 2012, he was copied on an order from the court of appeals indicating the appeal was dismissed because the county failed to file their brief by the stated deadline. The Court then gave the county until March 16, 2012, to file its brief along with a motion requesting to reinstate the appeal as well as an explanation as to what "special circumstances" existed as to why the brief was not filed in a timely fashion. No brief and no motion were ever filed, however, so the court automatically dismissed the appeal.
Pertler was unaware of that fact, however, until contacted by the Pine Journal this week, stating he had not seen any paperwork from the court of appeals to that effect. He said the case had been referred to Assistant County Attorney James Ross while Pertler was away on vacation, but Ross stated he was unaware of any communication from the state, either.
While no clear answer was found regarding the missing communications, Pertler and Sullivan agreed that in the future if there are any questions regarding either side of an issue, the best method of communication might just be the old-fashioned way - by telephone.
The appeal in the Scinocca prostitution case concerned whether the hotel room in which the incident took place on June 29, 2011, should be considered a public or private place. Solicitation of prostitution that takes place in a public place is deemed a gross misdemeanor, and if it takes place in a private place, it is considered a misdemeanor. Judge Wolf had ruled that not enough evidence existed to determine that a hotel room is indeed a public place and ruled in Scinocca's favor.