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Hamer found guilty of drug possession charge

MARSHALL — Lincoln County Commissioner Richard Hamer was found guilty of drug possession on Friday, after a trial held in Lyon County.

A jury returned guilty verdicts for fifth degree controlled substance crime, and for possession of drug paraphernalia. However, Hamer was found not guilty of a more serious charge of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell. Jurors also found that possession of guns found in a shop building owned by Hamer were not an aggravating factor in the drug possession charge.

Hamer was charged in March, after a search warrant executed Feb. 27 at his shop building in Hendricks found a little less than three grams of meth, as well as other drug paraphernalia and a total of 55 guns. In a criminal complaint, law enforcement said an informant told them he had left meth at Hamer’s shop three days before the search was executed.

During Friday’s trial, attorneys argued over whether or not evidence showed Hamer knew about the meth, as well as whether he intended to sell, trade or give drugs away.

Jurors returned a verdict around 8 p.m., after deliberating for over an hour.

“We are accepting and respectful of the jury’s verdict,” said Hamer’s attorney Jacob Birkholz, although Birkholz said they disagreed with the jury as to what the evidence in the case showed. Birkholz said Hamer was happy that the trial was over.

It’s not yet certain how the guilty verdicts will affect Hamer’s position as a Lincoln County Commissioner. Birkholz said that will be determined at Hamer’s sentencing hearing, which was set for Feb. 11. As a first-time drug offender, Hamer could end up without a felony conviction on his record, which would mean he would still be eligible to hold public office, Birkholz said.

During Friday’s trial, testimony was heard from law enforcement officers who conducted the search of Hamer’s shop building in Hendricks, which is located several blocks away from his residence. Jacob Jenson, of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, said there had been complaints of people coming and going from the shop building at all hours of the night. Jenson also said he applied for a search warrant after hearing from an informant, Michael DiCroce II, that DiCroce had split an 8-ball of meth and left it in Hamer’s shop.

The search found a crystalline substance inside a Marlboro cigarette pack on a table in the shop. The substance tested positive as meth, said Mark Patterson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The meth was in a different amount and found in a different location in the shop than DiCroce had said. Law enforcement also found paraphernalia like drug pipes, plastic baggies and scales in the shop.

During the trial, jurors also listened to a recording of an interview between Hamer and a BCA special agent on the day of the search. In the recording, Hamer said he didn’t know where the meth came from, but also said people would come and stay in the shop building.

In the recording, Hamer said he “helped a few people out,” when they were “down and out.” In the recording, Hamer also said he first tried meth 30 years ago.

Attorneys’ arguments at the trial focused on whether or not the evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Hamer knew the meth and drug paraphernalia were in his possession, and whether Hamer was intending to sell, trade or give the drugs to other people.

Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes said the state’s position was that it was unreasonable to believe Hamer would let other people “just run wild” in his building. Evidence like the presence of items like drug scales, and Hamer’s interview with the BCA, also pointed to him knowingly possessing the meth with intent to sell, Maes said.

But Birkholz argued that there were doubts as to whether the meth belonged to Hamer, or that he was selling it. Law enforcement hadn’t identified the people who were reportedly coming in and out of the shop building, and none were testifying at the trial, he said.

“It isn’t a standard of, you’re guilty if it just looks fishy,” Birkholz told the jury.

When the jury returned its verdict, they found Hamer guilty of possessing drug paraphernalia and fifth degree controlled substance crime for meth possession. However, they found Hamer not guilty of possession with intent to sell, which was a more serious charge.

Although Hamer wasn’t acquitted on all three charges, “There was a fair presentation of the evidence on both sides,” Birkholz said after the trial.

In addition to accepting the jury’s verdict, Lyon County District Court Judge Michelle Dietrich ordered a pre-sentencing investigation for Hamer, and set a sentencing hearing for Feb. 11.

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