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Charging decision due today on alleged hate crime in St. Louis County

The St. Louis County Attorney's Office expects to announce its charging decision today in the alleged assault of a gay Duluth man at an abandoned gravel pit in Kelsey Township late Saturday night.

The St. Louis County Attorney's Office expects to announce its charging decision today in the alleged assault of a gay Duluth man at an abandoned gravel pit in Kelsey Township late Saturday night.

Max Pelofske, 21, 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.

A 19-year-old allegedly involved in the incident was being held Tuesday in the St. Louis County Jail. An 18-year-old accused of being involved was not being held. St. Louis County Undersheriff David Phillips said the two were arrested on preliminary charges of fourth- and fifth-degree assault. The fourth-degree charge alleges an assault motivated by bias because of the victim's or another's actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability.

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said his office received the law enforcement reports of the incident Tuesday and would announce a charging decision this morning.

Phillips said at the time of the initial investigation the victim had a scratch or a bruise on his face and there was a small amount of bleeding associated with the scratch. There was no other evidence of bruising or other lacerations on his body.

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Pelofske couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. A message left on his voice mail wasn't returned. Court records show he has an active warrant out for allegedly committing a petty crime 3½ years ago and failing to show up in court. He was charged with shoplifting in late 2008 and failed to appear for his Jan. 7, 2009, arraignment.

Phillips said Tuesday morning he had no opinion as to whether the alleged incident was a hate crime or a crime of bias.

"I have no opinion at this point, no," he said. "But it's the intent of this office to fully investigate, fully interview, do what it takes to bring this to resolution and make sure that the appropriate charges are asked for in this case. Ultimately, the county attorney's office is also involved in that process. ... Everyone is calling it a hate crime, a bias crime, all this stuff. But we have to look at this very clinically and if it rises to the level of fourth-degree assault, the bias offense subdivision, then between the county attorney and our staff we will figure out the appropriate charges."

About 50 young people -- high school age or graduates in the past couple of years -- were at the party, Phillips said, including but not limited to Proctor youths.

"This was a very tragic incident, not only for the victim, but also for all these young people involved," Phillips said. "Part of the tragedy we've seen again and again over the years when young people get together and there's underage consumption of alcohol or drugs. Parents, we ask you to keep track of where your kids are. And kids, stay away from these pit parties. There's nothing good that comes from attending one of these illegal gatherings."

Related Topics: CRIMEPOLICEPROCTOR
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