Trial avoided in Osceola attempted homicide

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Paul W. Krueger pleaded guilty to felony aggravated battery and felony bail jumping, avoiding a trial on attempted homicide charges from an incident last year in Osceola. - Photo by Greg Marsten

Paul W. Krueger still faces up to 21 years in prison

Greg Marsten | Staff writer

BALSAM LAKE – Trial has been avoided in the case of attempted homicide in Osceola in early 2016 against Paul W. Krueger, 36, formerly of Osceola but now living in Grantsburg.

After over a year of delays for a variety of reasons, Krueger’s case languished in the courts until last week when he agreed to a plea bargain to avoid a planned July 10 week long jury trial.

The charges stem from an incident at Krueger’s Osceola apartment where he was accused of beating a man so bad during a late-night fight on Feb. 1, 2016, that police originally feared that the victim would not make it through the night.

The beating left the victim with a variety of injuries, including serious head trauma, a broken eye socket, bruising on his face and bleeding on the brain. It reportedly took 17 staples on the back of his head to close up the victim’s head injuries, and he was hospitalized for an extended period of time.

Krueger was originally facing up to almost 50 years in prison on multiple felony charges, including second-degree attempted homicide, aggravated battery, marijuana possession – with intent to sell and a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge.

The deal to avoid trial was brokered by two relatively new players in the Krueger case; due to potential conflicts of interest from one of his past attorneys being the new Polk County district attorney’s spouse, Krueger’s case is being prosecuted by Edward Minser from the St. Croix County District Attorney’s Office, who worked with Krueger’s new defense attorney, Matthew Krische, who is the third attorney to represent Krueger.

“We have an agreement in this,” Krische told Judge Jeffery Anderson on Friday, June 9, at what was scheduled to be the final pretrial hearing before Krueger’s jury trial, which was set to begin on July 10 and run all week.

With the plea deal, the prosecution amended the charges to add a felony bail jumping as a fifth charge, stemming from a bond violation this winter that landed Krueger back in jail for using methamphetamine while out on bond.

With the plea deal, Krueger pleaded guilty to two felony charges: felony aggravated battery and felony bail jumping, with the other three charges being dismissed but read in at his sentencing, now scheduled for Aug. 17.

While there was some debate on whether the dismissed charges would still be considered at sentencing, Judge Anderson noted that Krueger’s case involved several aspects and instances and it was over a year after the original crime that he was charged with the bond jumping, so he would be considering the sentencing with an eye on the past.

“You can’t just blot out the facts of the situation. You can’t create a hole in the fabric at sentencing,” Anderson said. “You need the whole of the facts (at sentencing).”

The judge pointed to the “totality of the evidence presented in previous hearings,” as well as in a related case, where charges were dropped, and that regardless of the deal, the case will likely have a significant potential of jail time.

Even with the plea deal to reduce the potential prison time, Krueger faces up to 15 years and up to or including $50,000 in fines on the aggravated battery charge alone, and up to another six years and $10,000 in fines on the felony bail jumping charge.

The state will provide a presentence investigation for a sentencing recommendation, and there may be an alternate PSI done, as well.

“This will be an argued sentencing … and it could request consecutive sentencing,” Anderson noted. “And yes, he faces up to a total of 21 years (in prison) and up to or including $60,000 in fines.”

After some consultations with his attorney, Krueger spoke quietly when the judge asked how he pleaded to the felony aggravated battery charge.

“Guilty, your honor,” Krueger said flatly, repeating the phrase on the bail jumping charge.

Anderson noted that the crime was “considered a violent felony,” and reminded Krueger that he caused great bodily harm to another person, and that he had a right to tell his story to a jury.

“No, I feel this is in my best interest,” Krueger said with a nod before Anderson adjourned the hearing.

Krueger remains in custody until his sentencing on Aug. 17.

Background

According to the criminal complaint, filed by the Polk County District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 2, 2016, police were called to Krueger’s apartment early in the morning on Feb. 1, 2016, after neighbors were awakened around midnight by yelling and apparent fighting in a nearby apartment. Those witnesses reported hearing loud calls of a man exclaiming “Ow, stop hurting me,” and “Why are you hurting me?” as well as one of the men yelling “I will wreck you!”

The yelling and disagreements went on for approximately 45 minutes before they called 911. They said the fighting seemed to stop once an Osceola Police cruiser rolled into the parking lot. When that officer tried to enter the apartment in question, Krueger opened the door slightly but refused to allow police to enter, loudly yelling he knows his rights.

Once backup officers arrived from the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, they tried to gain entry into the apartment, but Krueger again only opened the door slightly before the deputies forced it open, over concern for a possible victim.

As the police swept the scene, they found Krueger with blood covering his hands, bare legs and shorts, but no significant injuries. They also found a man unconscious on the dining room floor, 10 feet away. The victim is a local man in his mid-30s. They also found an apparently uninjured male, Joshua Rader, passed out or asleep on the living room couch.

The victim was found barely breathing and bleeding profusely from his head and face. EMTs arrived a short time later and treated him for severe trauma on the back of his head. His face was bruised, with puffy eyes, and he had severe bruising on the left side of his torso, as if from being punched repeatedly.

The victim was transported to the Osceola Medical Center for emergency treatment. He was later transported to Regions Medical Center in St. Paul for further treatment.

It was noted in the complaint and at the preliminary hearing how a short time after the victim was admitted to OMC, police were informed  that they had discovered a “plum-sized wad of paper towel” lodged in the victim’s throat, likely contributing to his inability to breathe or unconsciousness.

Authorities speculated that the paper towel may have been placed in the victims’ throat to keep him from yelling for help when police arrived, a theory used during the preliminary hearing as evidence against Krueger, although the exact reason or who placed the toweling in his throat was addressed several times in a defense dismissal motion, but never fully explained.

The complaint also described how police had found Krueger’s apartment “covered in blood,” with splatters on the walls, and specifically point to the baby quilt on the floor, which the police speculated was meant to conceal what the investigator had noted was a large “primary blood spill.”

The man found on the couch, Joshua Rader, who “appeared to be sleeping” when they entered, was initially charged, as well, but those charges were dropped last year.

However, Rader gave police some of the background on the activities that may have led to the incident, stating that the three of them, Krueger, Rader and the victim, had left the apartment about 5-6 p.m. the previous evening to play pool in Wyoming, Minn. He said they drove Krueger’s pickup and got back to the apartment at about 10 p.m., after which they drank alcohol, watched TV and talked, with Rader stating that he had drunk “about 20 beers” and then passed out on the couch.

In the narrative, Rader told police there were no arguments prior to the time he passed out, telling police that “everything was fine.” He said he only recalled waking up when police and EMTs arrived, “with blood everywhere.”

In a subsequent investigation by authorities, search warrants were obtained for Krueger’s apartment, which is where they discovered a black duffel bag on the kitchen floor, filled with marijuana paraphernalia, a digital scale, baggies and smoking paraphernalia, as well as 14.3 grams of marijuana. They later found Krueger’s wallet stuffed between his mattresses, with over $1,100 in cash.

Krueger had been free on what was originally a $25,000 cash bond, which had been reduced to $20,000 in a September 2016 motion hearing.

However, the case had several delays and twists along the way, including a last-minute delay last fall when Krueger and his attorney parted ways, shortly before the case was first set for trial.

There were also other delays as they had to find an alternate prosecutor and later, a new attorney, and then Krueger’s bond was revoked in January, at the request of his father, who had lent the bond money but said Krueger was not following the terms of his bond, that he had used meth and was not taking the case seriously.

Krueger has been in custody since Jan. 11.

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