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7 charged with assault in Kelsey Township gravel pit party

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 May 26 at a Kelsey Township gravel pit.

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 May 26 at a Kelsey Township gravel pit.

St. Louis County authorities said they found no basis to charge a hate crime, which could have been brought if they found evidence that an assault on Max Pelofske was motivated by bias against his sexual orientation. 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, but witnesses did not back up his version of events.

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 also was charged with fifth-degree assault, disorderly conduct and underage drinking and driving.

Stumme said a 17-year-old juvenile also might be charged with assault in connection with the incident.

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Pelofske was charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. He had claimed that he had been at the pit party about five minutes when another young man asked him if he was gay. He said he responded, "Yes, I'm gay. Is that a problem?" He said the other man immediately grabbed him by the shirt, threw him to the ground and began punching and kicking him.

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."

Pelofske didn't immediately return a recorded voice message seeking comment.

"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."

At 11:06 p.m. on May 26, a deputy was dispatched to the area of Erickson Road and McKay Road in Kelsey Township regarding a call of an assault involving Proctor High School students at a gravel pit party.

A responding sergeant with the sheriff's department said Pelofske wanted to speak with a supervisor because he felt his assault complaint was being completely ignored because he was homosexual. The deputy said he thought it was an odd complaint because deputies had arrived in a timely manner, made contact with the reporting party, pursued and stopped a vehicle from leaving and were attempting to bring order to a chaotic situation. License plate numbers were recorded from at least 25 vehicles at the pit.

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said at least 22 interviews were conducted by his deputies in connection with the incident.

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"It was a very thorough, complete investigation," he said. "The facts did not support anyone being charged with a bias crime ... and our recommendation was confirmed by the county attorney's office."

Deputies said they decided to make their priority an assault investigation rather than spending time issuing citations for underage consumption, which could have alienated potential witnesses.

According to the criminal complaints:

One of the defendants said he saw Pelofske throw a beer can at someone and admitted that he kicked Pelofske a couple of times until someone pulled him off. He said he saw others hit Pelofske.

One witness said he saw Pelofske get pushed to the ground and kicked a couple of times in the chest. He said several people attempted to break up the fight and Pelofske kicked someone in the face.

One of the teenagers taken into custody apologized to investigators for not initially being cooperative. He said his father had advised him to never speak to law enforcement. He admitted knocking a hat off Pelofske's head, but denied assaulting him.

Witnesses said a 17-year-old hit Pelofske twice in the head.

Allegations were made that Pelofske or someone was stealing alcohol out of a cooler. People were getting in people's faces. Some admitted to having their memory clouded by alcohol consumption. Two young men were bumping chests. One young woman was heard threatening that she was going to beat up another young woman. Underage drinkers were in a gravel pit with the clock approaching midnight.

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Others charged in connection with the incident are: Wesley Richard Alberg, 18, Duluth, misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct; Kaz Jon Anderson, 18, Saginaw, misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct; Randall Casper-Austin Bauer, 19, Duluth, misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct, possession of a small amount of marijuana; Chase Louis Collelo, 18, Duluth, misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct; Kelly Joy Johnson, 21, of Saginaw, disorderly conduct.

Related Topics: CRIME
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