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Closing statements in Hartley trial delayed until Feb. 21

Closing remarks for the jury trial of Matthew Hartley have been postponed until Tuesday, Feb. 21, due to a medical emergency that hospitalized the defense attorney.

"We continue to be in a holding pattern," Judge Christian Wilton told jurors Feb. 13, at the Scott County courthouse. "This is nobody's fault. My hope is to have you back in here next Tuesday."

Hartley, 34, of Eureka Township, is standing trial for the hit-and-run death of Lakeville resident Mollie Mahowald in Elko New Market Sept. 25.

The jury was seated Feb. 6, with the trial running through the week. Closing statements were expected to happen Feb. 13, but have now been delayed as the court waits to see if defense attorney Robert Miller will recover in time to finish.

Mollie's father, Pete Mahowald, said he was afraid the judge would call a mistrial and that he and his family would have to endure the process a second time.

Judge Wilton was unwilling to do that at this point, admonishing jurors to steer clear of news reports on the trial. Their notebooks, containing notes from the trial, were publicly sealed until court reconvenes next week.

Mollie, a member of the Army National Guard, had been out with friends Sept. 25. She had just called her sister for a ride and was standing outside around 2:30 a.m. when Hartley raced by on his motorcycle. He struck her, breaking her jaw, leg and several ribs on the right side of her body, according to the autopsy report. She also had severe injuries on the left side of her body, since the impact threw her several feet.

The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries, according to Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Lorren Jackson.

The paramedic at the scene told the jurors she and her team had tried to revive Mollie, but that her injuries were so severe, she was unable to find an airway.

She got permission from her superiors to cease life-saving efforts and allowed Mollie's sister and mother to say goodbye.

"It is the defense's position that the victim is the cause of the accident," Miller, Hartley's attorney, said Feb. 3. He is trying to prove that Mollie was intoxicated and wandered into the path of Hartley's motorcycle.

Hartley is charged with three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide — driving recklessly, driving drunk and leaving the scene of the accident.

Detective Brian Cade of the Scott County Sheriff's Office, following a tip from someone who knew Hartley, secured a warrant to search Hartley's residence in Eureka Township.

The property is rural and mostly wooded.

Cade noticed mud on the tires of a black truck at the residence and tire tracks matching the truck's tires trailing out into the woods. Cade followed the tracks to an overturned red canoe which was covering Hartley's black motorcycle.

The motorcycle was damaged and was missing a piece in front. The piece was found in the back of the black truck. Plastic saddlebags from the bike had been stashed under an abandoned car on the property, he said.

A search of the residence revealed Hartley's clothes, a pair of blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a blue zip up sweatshirt, in a washing machine.

Prosecuting attorney Michael Budka asked Cade one last question about a recorded phone conversation of Hartley from the Scott County jail.

Cade confirmed that Hartley said, "I will never drink alcohol again."

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