State V. Bielke County
County: Hennepin Co. (5/2011)
Charges: 1st Degree Assault and 3rd Degree Assault
Outcome: Jury found Mr. Bielke NOT GUILTY on all charges.
The case against Mr. Bielke started after Mr. Bielke’s friends were calling a woman and her group of friends derogatory names in a bar. The name calling continued out into the parking lot. The woman’s male friend approached Mr. Bielke and his friends. The prosecutor alleged that Mr. Bielke provoked the altercation, that Mr. Bielke aggressively shoved the man several times, and then punched the man as the man grabbed Mr. Bielke to stabilize himself. Several of the State’s witnesses testified similarly. The alleged victim sustained multiple severe facial fractures, has 3 titanium plates in his face, and has a severed nerve. Mr. Pacyga cross examined each of the State’s witnesses, pointing out inconsistencies and improbabilities along the way. He then called several witnesses that supported the theory that Mr. Bielke acted in self defense, highlighting facts such as that the alleged victim actually approached Mr. Bielke, that the alleged victim refused to walk away after Mr. Bielke told him repeatedly to do so, that the alleged victim would not back away from the pushes, and that Mr. Bielke only punched him after he grabbed Mr. Bielke’s collar. The challenges in the case were twofold: 1) to get the jury to understand that, while Mr. Bielke and his friends could have behaved differently that night, the issue in court is not whether they acted perfectly, but whether Mr. Bielke was acting in self defense; and 2) when, exactly, Mr. Bielke had a duty to retreat before he punched the alleged victim. After the one week trial, the jury took 5 hours to deliberate. They unanimously found him NOT GUILTY of both 1st Degree Assault and 3rd Degree Assault. The case is a good example of how a skilled criminal defense lawyer can present a self defense claim and succeed, even when the injuries to the alleged victim are severe.