Judge denies motion for Franks Hearing in sexual misconduct case

·3 min read

Mar. 30—CARLTON — Judge Amy Lukasavitz issued an order Wednesday, March 30, dismissing a motion for a Franks Hearing in the case of a former psychologist at the Minnesota Sexual Offender Program in Moose Lake.

Michelle Dawn Brownfield is charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct after an investigation found she had inappropriate relationships with two men she was assigned to treat at the MSOP facility.

Brownfield was a psychologist at the facility, which serves clients who are committed as sexually dangerous or sexually psychopathic personalities.

Arguments were made to the judge for and against the Franks Hearing during a virtual hearing on March 25.

A Franks Hearing comes from the 1978 Supreme Court case Franks v. Delaware and would determine whether a police officer lied or had a reckless disregard for the truth in obtaining a search warrant.

Barry Edwards, Brownfield's defense attorney, argued the scope of the search warrant used to search Brownfield's phone went beyond the description of the warrant.

Edwards argued the victims in the case were committed to the MSOP facility and were medically defined as "pathologic persons." Because they have a tendency to lie, the warrant's basis should be invalid, he said.

Edwards said the officer left out the fact the victims were "pathologic persons" and that not everyone committed to the facility falls into that category.

Deputy County Attorney Jeffrey Boucher argued against the defense's claims, saying the warrant is valid and the officer was not involved in any misconduct.

"I will not excuse their (the victims') actions that led to them being committed," he said. "The defendant's power over them makes it a crime."

Boucher added there is no finding that a pathological personality is incapable of telling the truth.

In the judge's order, Lukasavitz wrote that MSOP was established to provide specialized sex offender assessments, diagnosis and care to criminally convicted sex offenders.

As the search warrant stated, the victims were "clients" of MSOP. Lukasavitz's order said the officer did not disregard the truth by not including why the victims were clients.

The defense also claimed the warrant should be invalid because its location was listed as the township of Carlton, but the warrant was executed in Moose Lake.

Boucher said it was difficult for the officer to execute the warrant as Brownfield canceled planned interviews. The officer wasn't able to update the warrant because the technical system was down when he found his only opportunity to execute the warrant.

Because the officer tried to correct the error, Lukasavitz said the court could not consider that the action was done with reckless disregard for the truth.

The defense has until April 29 to submit a motion to suppress evidence in the case. Edwards said during the hearing on March 25 that there was an exploratory rummaging through the defendant's phone. Some of the items sought on the phone were messages, electronic mail, audio and images to name a few, and Edwards said it was beyond a broad description.

"On its face this warrant is unconstitutionally broad," he said.

A plea agreement has also been withdrawn by the prosecution, as Boucher said the case appears to be on a trial track.