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Minnesota roundup: Law professor's rape case dropped; Deer goes through windshield, injures NW Minn. driver

MINNEAPOLIS—Hennepin County prosecutors on Thursday dismissed rape and stalking charges against a University of Minnesota law professor, saying they could not verify the accusations of his former girlfriend.

Francesco Parisi, 54, was arrested in February and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and felony stalking. Both charges were dismissed.

"Prosecutors dismissed the charges in the interest of justice. Specifically, thorough and diligent efforts to corroborate or verify a number of specific allegations against Mr. Parisi that were made to the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County attorney's office were unsuccessful," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's office said in a news release.

"Considering all of the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, the charges are no longer supported by probable cause and dismissed."

The woman reported to Minneapolis police in January that Parisi knocked her unconscious and raped her in January 2015, leaving her with significant injuries.

Parisi said through his attorney last month that the accuser had "zero evidence, other than her word, based on facts that have already been disproven in court in her various civil actions."

Parisi has been a law professor at the U since 2006 and also is an economics professor at the University of Bologna in Italy and editor-in-chief of the Review of Law and Economics.


Children's Hospitals ends contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield

EAGAN, Minn.—A payment dispute has prompted Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to end a contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

As many as 70,000 people could be affected by the decision, which would make Children's an out-of-network provider for all Blue Cross health plans. The change could go into effect as early as July 5.

Children's argues that Blue Cross is demanding a double-digit reduction in payments for care Medicaid patients get. Blue Cross says it already pays Children's well above the rate Minnesota has set for its own direct Medicaid payments, and in some cases, double.

"At a time when Minnesotans need all areas of the health care system to collaborate on solutions for keeping medical costs affordable, Children's is focused on increasing its already strong margins," Garrett Black, senior vice president of health services for Blue Cross, said in a prepared statement.

But Todd Ostendorf, chief financial officer of Children's Minnesota countered: "The reductions to Medical Assistance/Medicaid reimbursement rates proposed by Blue Cross would be financially crippling for Children's."

Both sides urged the other to continue negotiations. Blue Cross is Minnesota's largest health insurer and is based in Eagan. Children's is one of the nation's largest pediatric health systems with two hospitals and 12 primary and specialty-care clinics.


Man sentenced for Islamic threat

MINNEAPOLIS—A federal judge sentenced a Minneapolis man Wednesday to a year in prison for threatening to blow up a local Islamic center.

Daniel George Fisher, 57, admitted to writing and sending an anonymous letter to the Tawfiq Islamic Center in Minneapolis in September 2015, threatening to "blow up your building with all you immigrants in it," court documents say.

He pleaded guilty in November before U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright in St. Paul to one count of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs.

Fisher had said he was angry that the Islamic center, which serves the local Oromo Muslim community, was planning to build a mosque three blocks from his home, according to charges filed against him in October.


Minn. man faces counterfeit money charges

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—An Alexandria man was arrested in Benton County after a routine traffic stop and is facing charges of possessing counterfeit currency.

According to the Benton County Sheriff's Office, James Earl Meyer, 53, attempted to use a counterfeit $100 bill at Hardware Hank in Rice about 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7.

An employee then called the Rice Police Department and provided a description of Meyer's vehicle and his direction of travel. Meanwhile, a Benton County deputy on patrol near Pine's Edge Grocery Store in Rice stopped a vehicle driving without lights. The deputy noticed the driver throw an object out the window. The deputy contacted the Rice police chief, who told him the vehicle matched the description of the one that had left the Hardware Hank store.

Shortly after, the Benton County Sheriff's Office received a call from Pine's Edge Grocery Store stating that Meyer had also tried to use a counterfeit $100 bill there.

The deputy at the traffic stop discovered the numerous bills inside a tissue outside the vehicle.

Meyer was arrested for possessing counterfeit currency and brought to the Benton County Jail.

Meyer has a criminal record dating back to 1993.


Deer goes through windshield, injures northwest Minnesota driver

HOLT, Minn.—A 45-year-old motorist was injured Wednesday night by a deer he hit in Marshall County after the animal went through his windshield.

The Minnesota State Patrol and Marshall County Sheriff's Office responded at 7:51 p.m. to the crash on Minnesota. Highway 32 on the south edge of Holt, a Marshall County town about 10 miles north of Thief River Falls.

Steven Ray Gross of Salol, Minn., was southbound on the highway in a 2012 Ford van when he hit a deer that was just struck by a 2000 Chevy Monte Carlo, according to a crash report. The deer went through the van's windshield and hit Gross, the reported stated.

The driver of the Monte Carlo, 20-year-old Douglas Scott Peterson of Thief River Falls, was not injured, but Gross was taken to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Both were wearing seat belts and alcohol was not involved.


Minn. couple, tenant face felony charges

OSAKIS, Minn.—An investigation into credit card fraud and swindle in Osakis has led to felony drug charges.

Denise Carol Waldvogel, 47, of Osakis was charged Dec. 31, 2016, with felony theft by swindle. Her husband, Curtis Dale Waldvogel, 45, was charged with felony credit card fraud on March 1 and two drug-related counts on Feb. 1. Those counts include third-degree possession of meth in excess of 10 grams, about one-third of an ounce, and fifth-degree possession of marijuana.

A 42-year-old Frazee woman, Tammy Lynn Popoe, who was living at the Waldvogels' residence, was charged on Dec. 16, 2016, with possessing more than 50 grams, or nearly 1.8 ounces, of meth, a first-degree felony.

The investigation started last November after the president of the Osakis Creamery Association reported to police that the general manager, Denise Waldvogel, was fired when a financial audit showed funds were missing from the creamery.

The total theft amount reported by the creamery was $42,361.58.

During the swindle investigation, Osakis police learned that Curtis Waldvogel allegedly used one of the creamery's Menards credit cards to purchase items without permission. Curtis Waldvogel is accused of making 33 unauthorized transactions totaling $6,334.96.

Both Waldvogels were released from jail after posting bail. Popoe remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail.

Court appearances for all three are scheduled later this month.