Local/state briefs

Thissen exits Dem governor’s race after poor caucus showing

ST. PAUL (AP) — State Rep. Paul Thissen is dropping out of the governor’s race after a poor showing in Tuesday night’s caucuses.

Thissen, a former House speaker, was part of a crowded field of Democrats hoping to succeed Gov. Mark Dayton.

But he finished at the bottom of a six-candidate field in the caucus straw poll, well behind U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, the leader with most caucuses reporting.

7-year-old dies after crashing into tree while sledding

ST. PAUL (AP) — Family and friends are mourning the death of a 7-year-old St. Paul boy who died after crashing into a tree while sledding in Wisconsin.

Simon Caquelin was a first-grader at Central Lutheran School in St. Paul. He was injured at a Boy Scout sledding hill in Houlton on Jan. 27. He remained in critical condition at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul until his death Monday.

The Star Tribune said a funeral will be held today at St. Stephanus Lutheran Church in St. Paul. Simon is survived by his parents and two siblings, ages 11 and 13.

Driver accused of operating school bus while intoxicated

SAUK CENTRE (AP) — Police are recommending child endangerment charges against a Sauk Centre school bus driver accused of driving his route while intoxicated.

Authorities said the 63-year-old man was arrested Monday after the school district received several calls about the driver. School officials told police one of their drivers was apparently drunk and driving a bus with about 40 to 50 children on board.

KSTP-TV reported Sauk Center Superintendent Patrick Westby says all children were delivered home safely. Westby says the man is no longer driving for the district.

Besides child endangerment, the driver is facing charges of driving while intoxicated.

Ex-assistant principal sentenced to 25 years for child porn

ST. PAUL (AP) — A former Bemidji assistant school principal will serve 25 years in prison for using social media to direct dozens of girls and boys to send him sexually explicit photos.

Thirty-five-year-old Brandon Bjerknes was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in St. Paul. Bjerknes pleaded guilty in October to coercion of a minor and child pornography.

Prosecutors said Bjerknes posed as a young teenage boy on social media, encouraging girls and boys as young as 12 to send him sexually explicit photos of themselves.

Bjerknes became assistant principal at the middle school in 2014. He resigned last April and was arrested the next month.

The Star Tribune reported Bjerknes will be on supervised release for life and must register as a predatory offender.

Minnesota appeals court rules county can’t evict homeowner

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota appeals court said a county housing court lacked the authority to evict a woman from her Minneapolis home.

Hennepin County’s housing court used the state’s public nuisance law to kick Sandra Hart, 62, out of the house she owns because of alleged drug and prostitution activity, the Star Tribune reported.

“I don’t even have a mortgage on the house,” Hart said. “I’ve never hurt anybody or been convicted of these crimes. How do they have the right to kick me out? I’ve been through hell.”

Police have been called to Hart’s home more than 100 times since 2014, the county said. One incident involved an undercover operation where a resident at Hart’s home was arrested for prostitution. Another call involved police chasing a methamphetamine dealer out of the house.

Court documents show that Hart has disputed claims of drug use and other illegal activity at her residence, blaming her neighbors for causing trouble.

Hart, her son and three toy poodles have lived in hotels, with friends, in a van and in a tent in a park over the past 11 months.

The state Court of Appeals ruled last week that the housing court isn’t allowed to hear cases about owner-occupied homes. The housing court is meant to focus on residential rental housing and therefore lacked the authority to evict Hart, the appeals court said.