How alleged gunman in Juab County was able to leave police custody in Minnesota
JUAB COUNTY – Investigators are trying to figure out how a man accused of shooting at Utah High Patrol troopers in Juab County arrived in Utah, even though he’s awaiting trial for a similar crime in Minnesota.
Officials in Minnesota said they had no choice but to let him out of jail. Prosecutors in Hennepin County, Minn., charged James Klein with first-degree felony assault for allegedly firing a gun at police officers in a Walmart parking lot in March 2020. They added another assault charge because he reportedly pointed a gun at a woman in an apparent attempt to steal her car to get away from those officers.
Despite the severity of those charges, prosecutors were reportedly not able to keep him in custody until his trial. Hennepin County Attorney’s Office spokesman Chuck Laszewski said Minnesota state law prohibits a judge from outright denying bail for felony defendants.
“There’s no discretion. We have to request bail and the judge, ultimately, sets the amount,” Laszewski said.
In the most extreme cases, such as murder charges, the judge is able to set bail at a very high amount, frequently $1 million. But Laszewski said that wasn’t the case in this instance.
Klein bailed out.
“Later, when we asked for additional bail on a second case, the judge denied that. So, he was able to stay out of jail, pending his trial,” he said.
Klein’s trial is set to begin Oct. 18, but legal analysts in Utah said the Juab County attorney doesn’t have to release Klein.
Former prosecutor Kent Morgan, who is not connected with this case, said prosecutors can decide to keep Klein detained in Utah until his trial is finished.
“The severity of the crime, of course, is one of the main considerations,” Morgan said.
Morgan added attorneys would have to consider how strong the evidence is in both alleged crimes. If the chances of getting a conviction are higher in one state, Morgan believes it would be best to keep the defendant there.
“Assuming that everyone who is accused is going to be convicted is not a very wise thing to do in extradition decisions,” Morgan said.
Officials in Minnesota said they will work with the Juab County attorney to determine which path would be the best.
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