Doffing trial: The prosecution called four witnesses on Wednesday morning, then rested its caseAfter calling three witnesses on Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution in Rene Doffing's theft trial called four more witnesses on Wednesday.
After calling three witnesses on Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution in Rene Doffing's theft trial called four more witnesses on Wednesday.
The first witness called Wednesday morning was Hastings police officer Mike Schmitz, an 11-year employee of the department.
Schmitz remembered the Dakota County Deputy, Bryce Schuenke, walk into the meeting room at the Green Mill on Nov. 22, 2010. He overheard a conversation about someone taking something from the bar, then saw Doffing produce a corkscrew in his hand and say “I took it.”
Afterward, Schmitz saw an employee of the restaurant walk in and talk to Doffing and then Schmitz saw Doffing give the corkscrew to the employee.
When asked during cross examination if Doffing hesitated to hand the opener over, Schmitz said he did not. Nor, Schmitz said, did Schuenke attempt to retrieve the item from Doffing.
Schmitz said he believed that less than 15 minutes passed between when Schuenke left the room and when the manager appeared and asked for the corkscrew.
The next person to be called was Hastings officer David Bauer, who was there that night as well. When Schuenke entered the room, he approached Bauer. The two had known one another previously.
Bauer was in civilian clothes and off-duty, so Schuenke asked Bauer if there was an on-duty officer he could speak with. Bauer referred Schuenke to Don Farrington.
Bauer saw Doffing display the opener shortly thereafter. Bauer and Doffing spoke about the incident later, and Doffing told him that he had obtained the opener from the bartender.
During cross-examination by Engh, Bauer estimated that about a minute went by between when Schuenke entered the room and when Doffing displayed the opener in his hand.
Next on the witness stand for the prosecution was Kyle Linscheid, a four-year member of the force.
Linscheid said he remembered events much the same the previous two officers did. He said he then spoke with Doffing the following day, asking him in a light-hearted fashion something like “How is the corkscrew treating you?”
Doffing told Linscheid that he had known the restaurant’s owner, Tim O’Brien, for quite a while. Linscheid testified that Doffing told him vendors give away the corkscrews for free and that it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if he took it.
The fourth witness of the day was the investigator in the case, Doug Matteson, who has worked in law enforcement for 28 years, including about 20 as a detective with the force in Eagan.
On Dec. 1, 2010, Hastings Chief of Police Paul Schnell called the Eagan police chief and asked for his department’s help in conducting an investigation. Schnell said the matter was regarding a Hastings police officer, and that his department couldn’t handle it because of a conflict of interest.
The Eagan chief assigned Matteson to the case and that night, Matteson called Schnell.
The next morning, Matteson and Schnell met at Panera Bread in Hastings. Schnell gave Matteson Doffing’s name, Schuenke’s name and the name of a court clerk who was at Green Mill that night.
Matteson began his investigation with the clerk, who did not witness anything that night. She did, though, alert the Hastings city attorney to the case. The city attorney had told Schnell, who then phoned Eagan.
Matteson moved on to Schuenke and interviewed him. He later spoke with three Hastings officers and two employees of the Green Mill.
He also attempted to interview Doffing, he said. On Friday, Dec. 9, 2010, he went to Doffing’s home and knocked on the door. One of Doffing’s children answered, and told Matteson that Doffing was at his restaurant in Vermillion.
Matteson drove to Vermillion and walked into Duff’s Tavern at around 11 a.m. He identified himself and asked Doffing to give a statement.
Doffing said he was not comfortable doing that without his lawyer present.
Matteson then called Engh. At about 4 p.m. that afternoon, Engh called back. Engh said he was not available the following week, but that he would be available beginning the week of Dec. 20.
At that point, Matteson said he concluded his investigation was complete, and he turned it over to the prosecution. He said there were no leads taking him anywhere else, and that witness statements were all corroborated. He later said it is “very common” for investigators to submit their cases to the prosecution without talking to the person who is accused.
Eventually, Matteson set up a time to meet with Engh and Doffing. It was Jan. 10, 2011.
Soon after, Hastings police officer Brock Bukkila approached chief Schnell and told him he had seen events at the Green Mill and he had information he wanted to share.
Schnell phoned Matteson, who set up a time to meet with Bukkila.
They met on the morning of Jan. 10 in Red Wing, and Matteson took a statement from Bukkila.
On the morning of Jan. 10, neither Engh nor Doffing appeared in Eagan to speak with Matteson, he said.
Engh, during cross-examination, said the reason why the two didn’t show up was because on Jan. 7, 2011, a charge of theft was filed against Doffing. Why, Engh said, would the two of them appear to speak with an investigator when the charges were already filed?
Engh asked Matteson if he asked the prosecutor to wait to file charges until after he spoke with Doffing. Matteson said he did not.
Engh asked Matteson if he asked for a list of attendees at the union meeting, and Matteson said he did not. Engh continued along those lines, saying “You never found out in your detailed and rich investigation” who Doffing was sitting next to, and Matteson said he was correct.
Engh then pressed Matteson on how charges could have been filed without first talking with Doffing.
“It happens all the time,” Matteson said.
The state rested its case at about 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.