Fight at St. Louis County gravel pit yields mostly misdemeanor chargesAssistant St. Louis County Attorney Nathaniel Stumme said neutral and even friendly witnesses didn't support the account of the alleged hate-crime victim.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
Seven young adults, including a 21-year-old Duluth man who claimed he was beaten because he said he was gay, were charged with crimes Tuesday in connection with an incident at a Kelsey Township gravel pit on May 26.
But St. Louis County authorities said they found no basis to charge a bias crime.
A bias crime could have been brought if authorities found that an assault was motivated by bias against the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability.
Max Pelofske said he was struck in the head by a beer can, and a crowd of laughing and smiling boys surrounded him, threw him to the ground and began punching and kicking him after he told them he is gay.
Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nathaniel Stumme charged the case after an investigation by the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.
Most of the young adults were charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct — both misdemeanors. One felony was charged. Eighteen-year-old Tyler Joseph Schubert was charged with a felony for allegedly fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. He was also charged with fifth-degree assault, disorderly conduct and underage drinking and driving.
Pelofske was charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. He had claimed that after announcing he was gay, another young man immediately attacked him and tried to throw him in a fire.
Witnesses said others fought with Pelofske, but that he also had a role in the fighting by throwing a can and hitting a man.
“What was kind of critical in my analysis is that the people in the best position to hear and witness what happened … did not corroborate what Mr. Pelofske was initially reporting," Stumme said. “These are people we would presume to be his friends, who would be at least neutral if not supporting him. They were not supporting his allegations.”
According to the criminal complaint, Pelofske text-messaged Dan Hanger, an anchorman at Fox News, before he was interviewed at the scene by investigating deputies.
Stumme said that a 17-year-old juvenile may also be charged with assault in connection with the incident.
“Good people with good intentions obviously bristle at the idea of a hate crime,’’ Stumme said. “But it’s important in all cases, no matter what the allegations and complaints, that there be an objective and careful investigation — and that was absolutely done here.”