Retrial for Mastin denied
A motion for a new trial for Allison Mastin in an ongoing perjury case was denied by Judge Troy Timmerman in Faribault County District Court on Monday, March 9.
Mastin was previously charged with felony perjury and felony aiding an offender in July of 2018. In a Jan. 23, 2020 jury trial, she was found guilty by a jury of her peers of the first offense and was acquitted of the second offense.
Both the state, represented by Faribault County assistant attorney Lamar Piper, and the defense attorney Gary Gittus went through their reasonings as to why a new trial should or should not be granted.
Gittus explained to the court that he believed Mastin should be granted a new trial based on some evidence that came to light after deliberations were made by the jury in the January trial. Gittus stated he never received recorded evidence of Piper talking with Wyatt Tungland, who was directly involved in the assault connected to this perjury case, the night before the trial.
The defense explained Tungland’s medical history of concussions was discussed during the conversation with Piper the evening before the trial, which was not reported previously to Gittus. He also explained the role in which social media and other “media splashes” played in the involvement of the proceedings of the trial.
“I believe ethical rules were broken and it needs to be remedied by a new trial,” said Gittus. “It was an invasion of exculpatory evidence rights on my client’s part. Enough red flags were raised during the trial.”
In response, Piper explained that Mastin was not convicted for what Tungland said, but is being convicted for what she said under oath during Tungland’s omnibus hearing on July 27, 2018. Piper explains Mastin’s story goes back and forth between knowing and not knowing Tungland was at her residence during the night of an assault that took place in Winnebago. He also stated Tungland never said he was at Mastin’s house at any point in time during the night of the assault.
“As to both of these claims,” said Piper. “There is simply no relevant explanation as to why a new trial should take place.”
“A new trial should be granted cautiously, if there is substantial error in the jury trial,” said Judge Timmerman. “The jury found Ms. Mastin committed purgery on the one count and found that the state did not prove to the elements beyond a reasonable doubt for the obstructing the investigation charge. The focus, ultimately, is on whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict as to the charge. The court finds there is sufficient evidence to meet each element of the charge, so the defense’s motion for a retrial or aquittal is denied.”
Judge Timmerman then turned to the area of the disclosures in Piper’s interview with Tungland.
“Although it’s not really before me,” he said, “I cannot find that Mr. Piper met with Mr. Tungland without his attorney’s knowledge. I cannot find the lack of the disclosure of those statements was prejudicial of Ms. Mastin’s case. Mr. Tungland’s memory, or lack thereof, would not be relevant to Ms. Mastin’s guilt or innocence in the disclosure of the statements.”
When viewed in the entire length of the record, the court could not find that inexcusable prosecutorial misconduct occurred so the right to another fair trial was denied.
Lastly Judge Timmerman discussed whether the court committed error.
“There are two areas raised here,” he said. “First is the exclusion of the fact that Mr. Tungland’s plea of guilty was an Alford plea. Court excluded this from evidence because how Mr. Tungland pleaded guilty or how he was convicted is of little probative value. This would have the potential of misleading the jury and wasting our time with what could amount to a retrial of Mr. Tungland’s case which was not the point of our trial here. And there was no compelling argument presented to the contrary.”
Lastly, the area that’s been attributed as potential error to the court is the opening of the floodgate to consider media and social media involvement, the judge explained.
“I reviewed the transcript of that of Police Chief Olson’s testimony, he testified as to the existence of traditional media interest of the case. He testified the case was the subject of conversation in the community,” said Timmerman. “He did not quote or repeat any out of court statements, he did not testify of any social media posts and was specifically prohibited by the court of doing so. Based on that, denied motion of retrial or aquittal.”
This denied motion then moved the case into sentencing, where Gittus requested a stay of adjudication instead of a stay of imposition for Mastin, while Piper reposefully requested the court adopt the recommendations of Mastin’s pre-sentence investigation.
Facing a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both, Mastin received a sentence of 30 days in the county jail, with credit for four days, and a stayed sentence of two years of probation with conditions. She also must pay a $1,000 fine, which she was given two years to pay off, along with sentence to serve hours to pay her fees. Mastin is to report to jail at 7 p.m. on March 28.
Mastin was also in court regarding a domestic assault charge from Jan. 23. In this case, Mastin pled not guilty and requested a jury trial.