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Jury finds former Nisswa mayor guilty on misdemeanor charge

Heidmann’s case stems from an Aug. 29, 2020, incident when Pequot Lakes and Nisswa police officers were conducting a traffic stop of a third party along Highway 371 south of Nisswa.

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The Crow Wing County Judicial Center is off Laurel Street in Brainerd.

BRAINERD — After about two hours of deliberation, a Crow Wing County jury returned a guilty verdict in the misdemeanor disorderly conduct case against former Nisswa Mayor Fred Heidmann.

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Fred Heidmann.
Forum News Service file photo

The jury’s verdict came at the conclusion of Heidmann’s trial Wednesday, March 29, before Judge Matthew Mallie in Crow Wing County District Court. Heidmann’s sentencing has been set for May 12 in Crow Wing County District Court.

With two days set aside for the trial, jury selection began Wednesday morning and shortly after noon prosecuting and defense attorneys presented their opening arguments in the case.

In closing his arguments during the jury trial, Heidmann’s attorney, Edward Shaw, argued Heidmann was merely expressing his opinion to law enforcement about their activities during an Aug. 29, 2020, traffic stop he witnessed outside his business.

Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Michael Hagley, who prosecuted the case after the Crow Wing County Attorney’s Office cited a conflict of interest, argued the manner in which Heidmann expressed himself crossed the line of opinion.

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At around 5:30 p.m., the jurors were sent to deliberate the matter of disorderly conduct and opinion.

“On behalf of Mr. Heidmann, obviously, we were hoping for a different verdict, but we respect the process,” Shaw said. “They're bound to go by the law as written. That's how it is.”

Shaw said the verdict points out a bigger problem with the way the statute is worded and how all kinds of behavior can be criminalized under the disorderly conduct statute.

“If you can be convicted of a crime, even a minor crime, for letting out a few swear words — a lot of us would be guilty of that,” Shaw said. “There are times in my life, I've done it times, and probably in most people's lives, they've done it. What this points out is that we have a law on the books that can be used to criminalize a lot of behavior that really shouldn't be criminalized.”

Hagley on Thursday declined to comment on the jury’s verdict because the case has not yet to be concluded.

Background on the case

Heidmann’s case stems from an Aug. 29, 2020, incident when Pequot Lakes and Nisswa police officers were conducting a traffic stop of a third party along Highway 371 south of Nisswa as part of the Toward Zero Deaths program. Heidmann, who was at his business across the highway, began videotaping the traffic stop and then walked across the four-lane highway with his dog toward the stopped vehicle.

According to police reports, police told Heidmann he could videotape the incident but to stand back from the highway to be safe. Heidmann asked what the officers were doing and why they stopped the vehicle, using expletives and making critical comments about the officers and the nature of the stop.

Nisswa Mayor Fred Heidmann gestures with his hand near a squad car
Nisswa Mayor Fred Heidmann confronts officers about the purpose of their traffic stop Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, as shown in bodycam footage provided by the Nisswa Police Department.
Screenshot / Brainerd Dispatch

Heidmann left and returned again to the scene of the traffic stop, parking nearby before approaching passengers in the stopped vehicle. An officer handcuffed Heidmann and he was cited for two misdemeanors — obstruction of the legal process and disorderly conduct.

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The obstruction of the legal process citation was dismissed in December 2020.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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