Jurors reach mixed verdict in Duluth assault case
Prosecutor Kristen Swanson told jurors Tuesday that Chad Loran Siegel was “smacking a hornet’s nest” when he assembled a group of people in his truck and initiated an attack on Jason Lane.
Siegel may not have inflicted the most damage — perhaps throwing just a few punches — but he was the mastermind behind the assault that nearly killed Lane, Swanson argued.
“The defendant didn’t stomp on Mr. Lane’s head. That’s not an issue here,” Swanson told jurors. “But he did bring together a group of people and kept hitting that hornet’s nest in order to inflict injury.”
A 12-member jury panel took about nine hours to render its verdict, finding Siegel not guilty of the amended charge of aiding and abetting attempted second-degree murder, but finding him guilty of aiding and abetting first-degree assault.
Judge Heather Sweetland ordered Siegel to be remanded in custody until sentencing.
Siegel, one of three defendants charged in the beating, was the first to have his case taken to trial. The trial, which began last Wednesday, was decided by a jury of seven men and five women.
When attorneys presented their closing arguments Tuesday morning, there was no disagreement about the severity of Lane’s injuries. Medical professionals testified at the trial that Lane suffered a traumatic brain injury. At dispute was Siegel’s role in the fight, and testimony from witnesses in the truck that night varied greatly.
Swanson noted in her closing argument that while Siegel denied any involvement in the altercation, the four passengers in the vehicle — Lane, Melissa Martinson and co-defendants Jason Carlsness and Terrance Yance — all implicated him in the crime.
Swanson noted that both Yance and Carlsness claimed that they had asked Siegel to drop them off before the assault ever took place. She said they had no motivation to fight Lane.
“Mr. Yance doesn’t know Mr. Lane. Mr. Carlsness doesn’t know him,” she said. “The defendant is the one who’s angry with Mr. Lane.”
Defense attorney Keith Shaw, in his closing argument, told jurors that Siegel may not have made the best decisions that night and probably wasn’t hanging out with the best people. But, he said, the other witnesses at the scene all had motivations to lie about their involvement.
“Each of them is trying to minimize their own participation,” he said.
Shaw also questioned Swanson’s contention that Siegel set up a conspiracy. He noted that Yance and Carlsness, who had not previously met, both testified that they did not get along with one another.
“These are the people you’re going to throw together?” he asked. “They don’t even like each other. Does this sound like a conspiracy? You wouldn’t throw two people at odds with each other together and say, ‘Let’s do this.’ ”
Both attorneys warned jurors that they would need to carefully comb through testimony and determine what they believed to be true.
Swanson acknowledged to jurors that the state may not have been able to provide direct evidence of Siegel’s involvement, but said circumstantial evidence alone should be enough to convict.
“We’re never going to know for sure what happened on April 21, 2013,” Swanson said. “There weren’t cameras there. We don’t have instant replay. We don’t have an analyst with a telestrator.”
All three defendants were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and two counts of kidnapping. During Siegel’s trial, the prosecution added the aiding and abetting language to the first two charges and dropped the kidnapping counts.
Yance reached a plea agreement with Swanson last month, pleading guilty to first-degree assault in exchange for a recommended 200-month prison sentence.
Carlsness, who is out of jail on a $250,000 bond, took the stand to testify against Siegel, even though he admitted that it may not have been in his best interest to do so. He is scheduled for a June jury trial.
Neither Swanson nor Shaw were available for comment at press time.