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Hampton Mayor found guilty in DWI case

The third time was the charm for the Dakota County District Attorney's Office in the driving while impaired (DWI) trial of Hampton Mayor Timothy Skog.

The mayor was arrested on suspicion of DWI June 1, 2007, in the city of Hampton.

After the first attempt to prosecute Skog ended in a mistrial, and the second attempt was postponed after Skog's defense attorney was hospitalized, the third attempt began Tuesday morning, 580 days after the initial arrest.

The trial came to a conclusion Thursday morning, and the jury reached a verdict late Thursday afternoon. It was read Friday morning in Dakota County District Court.

Skog was found guilty of third-degree driving while impaired, a gross misdemeanor, and obstructing the legal process, which is a misdemeanor.

The gross misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in county jail and a $3,000 fine. The misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Sentencing for the convictions will be Nov. 20.

It was Skog's second DWI conviction since he took office as mayor in November of 2004.

Skog pleaded guilty Jan. 23, 2006, to fourth-degree DWI charges. He was sentenced to one year of probation, a $210 fine (with $77 surcharge added), ordered to pay an unspecified amount of restitution, and referred for alcohol treatment.

Skog also was convicted of alcohol related offenses in 1988 and 1990.

The jury was given two key pieces of evidence by the prosecution - the testimony of the arresting officer,Dakota County Deputy Timothy Gonder, and a video recording of the ride from Hampton to Dakota County Jail.

Skog also testified about his accounts of the night in question. It differed in many ways from Gonder's testimony.

The incident took place outside the Hampton Fire Station, where Gonder witnessed Skog drive up to and park his vehicle.

He questioned Skog about whether he had seen another vehicle that Gonder was looking for while on regular patrol, but noticed Skog was stumbling and had slurred speech, and Gonder detected a strong odor of alcohol.

Gonder testified he gave Skog multiple field sobriety tests, in which he noted several clues that Skog was indeed intoxicated. Gondor also testified that before he administered the field sobriety tests, Skog attempted to evade the arrest by entering the fire station to hide while he radioed in his position.

Gonder testified he found Skog hiding between two fire trucks.

A preliminary breath test was given to Skog, but it was inadmissible under Minnesota Statute 169A.41, which states the results of a preliminary screening test must be used for the purpose of deciding whether an arrest should be made, but must not be used in any court action. Skog attempted to explain in the video why he blew a 0.18 on the test, but that part was not seen by the jury.

It was numerous references to this test by Gonder on the stand in the first trial attempt that led to the mistrial.

Skog refuted much of Gonder's testimony on the stand. Gonder testified he told Skog clearly to stop several times before he entered the fire station. Skog said he was already almost in the fire station to get his mail when the two initially talked, and all he heard was something mumbled to him.

He also stated he was not hiding between two fire trucks, but was simply off to the side talking to his wife on his cell phone.

The field sobriety tests also were disputed during the cross-examination of Gonder by the defense.

The main issue was the standing leg test Gonder administered. Gonder testified Skog did not follow several instructions, but the key one was to hold his leg up for 30 seconds.

Gonder and Skog both testified that Skog put his leg down after counting to 19. Skog, however, claimed he did it because Gonder and his partner - who had since arrived - were not paying attention.

When asked to restart, Skog put his foot down again when he hit 41 seconds. Gonder testified Skog started at No. 20 and went to 41, again failing to reach 30 seconds. Skog testified he started at one again and stopped at 41 because it was getting "stupid" and "ridiculous."

The field sobriety test was not caught on camera, despite happening in front of the squad car. Gonder noticed the camera wasn't working, but proceeded with the tests anyway. He did not attempt to get the camera working until after he put Skog in the back of his squad car. The camera eventually started working again.

The defense questioned Gonder as to why he didn't attempt to turn the camera on until after the test, even though his partner was there to watch Skog.

Gonder cited officer safety.

The camera did capture the audio of the car ride from Hampton to jail. Neither Skog nor Gonder are seen on the video, but the audio was clear.

On the video, Skog repeatedly asked the deputy to let him go and referred to his arrest as "stupid" and "pointless," and he uses profanity on a number of occasions.

He admits in the video to driving his vehicle and having a beer just before he drove. He also admits to having four beers that night.

"It doesn't matter, man. You did what you did. You're (the) man, you know; you got the mayor, wow, (expletive)," Skog said in the video.

He then tells the deputy he was going to walk home from the office, and says repeatedly his wife was going to pick him up.

"What really sucks - I went a block, not even, and you caught me, yet I wasn't doing something criminal like meth or (cocaine), no, wasn't doing that," Skog said in the video. "You know that's in Hampton ... you would rather just nail me instead of say 'Tim, what the hell are you doing?'

"Let all the freaking coke-heads go ahead, let the meth-heads go, just because I freaking took an Actifed and had four beers ..."

Skog also admits in the video he did wrong.

"I did something wrong - I am sorry," Skog said in the video.

Skog apologized for his actions in the video on the stand, calling them "embarrassing." He said he was scared and nervous, but not intoxicated.

He admitted on the stand that he had two beers around 6 p.m. and had another around 9:30 p.m. while delivering newspapers at a bar in New Trier. He also admitted to having three or four sips of a beer while at his final stop at a bar in Hampton delivering newspapers around 10 p.m.

He said he drove around 85 miles that night delivering newspapers. He also testified he had just taken an Actifed because he was sick.