State v. Wildenberg, No. CX-96-652

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtSTRINGER; KEITH; BLATZ; ANDERSON
Citation573 N.W.2d 692
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Appellant, v. Lyf Christian WILDENBERG, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. CX-96-652
Decision Date28 January 1998

Page 692

573 N.W.2d 692
STATE of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Lyf Christian WILDENBERG, Respondent.
No. CX-96-652.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
Jan. 28, 1998.

Page 693

Syllabus by the Court

1. A child sex crime victim's personal journals in the possession of the state are discoverable and admissible evidence where the prosecution introduced a taped conversation between the victim and the respondent that contained numerous references to the contents of the journals.

2. The trial court's denial of discovery of the victim's journals and denial of cross-examination regarding the contents of the journals was prejudicial error that violated the respondent's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation under the United States Constitution entitling respondent to a new trial.

Mark Nathan Lystig, Asst. Ramsey County Atty., Hubert H. Humphrey III, Atty. Gen., for appellant.

Birrell & Dunlap, Ltd., Andrew S. Birrell, Ian A. J. Pitz, Minneapolis, for respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

STRINGER, Justice.

Lyf Christian Wildenberg ("Wildenberg") claims his Sixth Amendment constitutional right of confrontation was denied when personal journals of K.A., the victim of an alleged sexual assault, were ruled by the trial court to be irrelevant and therefore nondiscoverable in Wildenberg's trial for criminal

Page 694

sexual conduct pursuant to Minn.Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(g) (1992). The court of appeals agreed with Wildenberg and reversed concluding that the trial court erred in its ruling, and that the error was prejudicial because the trial court allowed the jury to hear a taped conversation between K.A. and Wildenberg with multiple references by K.A. to the contents of her journals, but would not allow Wildenberg to cross-examine her regarding the contents of the journals or to inquire if, in fact, the journals existed. We affirm the court of appeals.

In August 1985, Wildenberg moved to Minnesota from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to attend school at Bethel College in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Wildenberg met K.A. in June 1986, when he began employment as a gymnastics coach at the Northwest YMCA ("YMCA") in Shoreview, where she was taking lessons. Wildenberg was 18 years old and K.A. was 9 years old at that time. Wildenberg coached K.A. at the YMCA from August 1986 until he left employment there in May 1988. During that time, Wildenberg became acquainted with K.A.'s mother. When Wildenberg stopped coaching gymnastics at the YMCA, K.A.'s mother pulled K.A. and C.A., her younger daughter, out of the program. Because Wildenberg could not afford an apartment after he left his coaching job, K.A.'s mother offered to have him move in with her family after Bethel College let out in June 1988. In exchange for painting the family's house, Wildenberg was given a couch to sleep on in the family room which was located in the basement along with a bedroom occupied by K.A.'s brother. Wildenberg lived with K.A.'s family continuously from June 1988 to September or October of that year, and then lived with them intermittently until the fall of 1990.

During the summer of 1988, Wildenberg began coaching gymnastics at Forest Lake Flyaways ("Flyaways"), and both K.A. and her sister C.A. enrolled in that program so that Wildenberg could continue to coach them. K.A. practiced gymnastics at Flyaways after school for 4 hours per day, several days per week. Wildenberg took K.A. and her sister to and from practices on a regular basis, and also accompanied K.A. and her mother to doctor and dentist appointments. After practices, Wildenberg and K.A. often ate dinner together and then watched television in the family room, or he engaged in long conversations with K.A.'s mother.

K.A. testified that Wildenberg sexually abused her, on an almost nightly basis, from the time she was 11 or 12 years old, and in the sixth grade, until he moved out of her family's home when she was in the eighth grade. Wildenberg denied engaging in sexual acts with K.A. during that time period. 1 K.A. testified that the first incident of sexual abuse occurred when she was 11 or 12 years old, when Wildenberg put his hands under her shirt and touched her breasts one night after she had fallen asleep on the family room couch while watching television. K.A. stated that she awoke during this incident, but pretended to be asleep. She further testified that Wildenberg engaged her in acts of sexual intercourse and digital penetration, and that they performed acts of oral sex upon each other, beginning when she was 12 years old and continuing on an almost nightly basis until she was 14 or 15. K.A. testified that these sexual activities usually occurred late at night in her bedroom, on the family room couch, or in her brother's bedroom. K.A.'s sister C.A. and C.A.'s friend, M.F., each testified that when they were age 9 or 10 and 8 or 9, respectively, they looked through a 5-inch hole in the closet wall between C.A.'s and K.A.'s bedrooms and observed Wildenberg, naked, lying on top of K.A., also naked. The children's testimony regarding this event is somewhat confused. After observing the scene in K.A.'s bedroom, C.A. testified that the two girls ran next door and brought M.F.'s brother, T.F., age 10, back with them to view the scene. M.F., on the other hand, testified that it was on another occasion, when the girls viewed K.A. and Wildenberg in K.A.'s bedroom kissing, but not naked, that the two girls ran next door and brought T.F. back with them to view the scene. T.F. testified that on the occasion the

Page 695

two girls brought him over to K.A.'s house, he looked through the hole in the wall and also observed Wildenberg, wearing only a pair of briefs, lying on top of K.A., but it is not clear on which occasion this occurred. He testified he could not tell whether or not K.A. had any clothes on, however. Afterwards, the three children ran next door and T.F. told his parents. When T.F.'s parents told K.A.'s parents, they confronted Wildenberg and K.A. in their living room with K.A.'s family members and neighbors present. Wildenberg and K.A. denied that anything sexual had happened. K.A.'s mother believed them and accused C.A. of lying.

K.A. testified at length about her gymnastics training and Wildenberg's coaching. She thought he was a really good coach, but when she made mistakes, he would punish her by yelling at her, making her stay in the locker room, preventing her from competing in meets, or telling her mother, who then also yelled at her, and who, on one occasion at a gymnastics meet, slapped her for failing to perform up to expectations. In August 1991, K.A. left the gymnastics program when Wildenberg and Barbara Burdick, an owner of Flyaways, suggested that because K.A. was having trouble balking, i.e., failing to perform a known skill, she was disrupting the practice of the other students. Shortly thereafter, when K.A. was age 15, she began to experience depression and apparently attempted suicide, although the timing of the suicide attempt is not clear from the record. Also at about that time, when K.A. was in tenth grade, she told her high school friend, N.F., that she had been having sexual relations with Wildenberg.

The following year, 1992, K.A. began to see a counselor. She did not tell the counselor about the sexual abuse, and in fact denied that she had had sexual relations with Wildenberg when the subject was brought up by the counselor.

Wildenberg continued to have some contact with K.A. by telephone over the next 2 years. In 1994, when K.A. was 17, she went to Wildenberg's apartment and had sexual intercourse with him. She testified that she "didn't feel really right about it," but that she did it because he wanted her to. Wildenberg, on the other hand, testified that K.A. initiated the sexual encounter and it was the only time they had sexual relations. Wildenberg further testified that a couple of weeks following that incident, he rejected K.A.'s further sexual advances.

Aside from her friend N.F., K.A. told no one about her relationship with Wildenberg until her boyfriend J.C. asked her to explain why she had marked an "x" on her calendar. She began to cry and told him that it marked the day, about a month earlier, that she had sexual intercourse with Wildenberg and that Wildenberg had sexually abused her as a child. Her boyfriend told her mother, and her mother talked to her about the matter but they did not report it to the police until about a month later.

As part of the criminal investigation commenced as a consequence of the report to the police, at the suggestion of a Ramsey County investigator K.A. called Wildenberg on the telephone on February 9, 1995 and tape recorded a conversation in which K.A. attempted to elicit an incriminating statement from him. Over the course of the taped conversation, lasting approximately 37 minutes, K.A. told Wildenberg that she was in counseling and that the counselor wanted to see her journals from when she was in eighth grade--about the time Wildenberg moved out of K.A.'s home in 1991. Wildenberg responded that he did not know that she kept journals. K.A. confirmed that she did, and that she wanted to talk to him first before she gave them to her counselor because there was some "stuff" in them about him. Wildenberg expressed concern about getting "in trouble" and told her that if it were up to him, she would destroy the journals, or rip out the pages that were about him. He also said that his advice was based on his own self interest however, and if she needed to give the journals to her counselor in order to help her, then that decision was up to her. At one point in the conversation K.A. said, " * * * on one it says I thought I was pregnant you know * * * * Cuz I was scared you know? Remember that time? I don't know if you remember or not." Wildenberg replied, "No, I don't remember that, but you never would have been because we never had

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intercourse." Then K.A. said,...

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27 practice notes
  • State v. Robinson, No. S-05-326.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • June 9, 2006
    ...of the case. See, U.S. v. Wheeler, 322 F.3d 823 (5th Cir.2003); Hester v. BIC Corp., 225 F.3d 178 (2d Cir.2000); State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692 (Minn.1998); State v. Lyons, 951 S.W.2d 584 The record does not show any misconduct by the prosecution with regard to Ferrell's statement abou......
  • State v. Evans, No. A06-821.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 23, 2008
    ...the family intervention, his visit to the hospital, and the reason for his going to the hospital.24 Evans relies on State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692 (Minn.1998), in contending that the district court erred. In Wildenberg we concluded that defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontatio......
  • State v. King, No. C9-99-298.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 1, 2001
    ...presence or absence of corroborating or contradicting evidence, and the overall strength of the prosecution's case. State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692, 702 (Minn. 1998); Dillon, 532 N.W.2d at 558 ("As a general rule, the stronger the evidence of guilt, the less likely that any error is Kin......
  • State v. Davis, No. S–14–508
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • May 8, 2015
    ...Id. (citing U.S. v. Wheeler, 322 F.3d 823 (5th Cir.2003) ; Hester v. BIC Corp., 225 F.3d 178 (2d Cir.2000) ; State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692 (Minn.1998) ; State v. Lyons, 951 S.W.2d 584 (Mo.1997) ).7 State v. Kibbee, 284 Neb. 72, 102, 815 N.W.2d 872, 896 (2012).8 State v. Lotter, 255 Ne......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • State v. Robinson, No. S-05-326.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • June 9, 2006
    ...of the case. See, U.S. v. Wheeler, 322 F.3d 823 (5th Cir.2003); Hester v. BIC Corp., 225 F.3d 178 (2d Cir.2000); State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692 (Minn.1998); State v. Lyons, 951 S.W.2d 584 The record does not show any misconduct by the prosecution with regard to Ferrell's statement abou......
  • State v. Evans, No. A06-821.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 23, 2008
    ...the family intervention, his visit to the hospital, and the reason for his going to the hospital.24 Evans relies on State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692 (Minn.1998), in contending that the district court erred. In Wildenberg we concluded that defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontatio......
  • State v. King, No. C9-99-298.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 1, 2001
    ...presence or absence of corroborating or contradicting evidence, and the overall strength of the prosecution's case. State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692, 702 (Minn. 1998); Dillon, 532 N.W.2d at 558 ("As a general rule, the stronger the evidence of guilt, the less likely that any error is Kin......
  • State v. Davis, No. S–14–508
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • May 8, 2015
    ...Id. (citing U.S. v. Wheeler, 322 F.3d 823 (5th Cir.2003) ; Hester v. BIC Corp., 225 F.3d 178 (2d Cir.2000) ; State v. Wildenberg, 573 N.W.2d 692 (Minn.1998) ; State v. Lyons, 951 S.W.2d 584 (Mo.1997) ).7 State v. Kibbee, 284 Neb. 72, 102, 815 N.W.2d 872, 896 (2012).8 State v. Lotter, 255 Ne......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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