BRAINERD, Minn.-Former Crosby Mayor James Hunter, who is again seeking the mayoral office seat in the November general election, was once again acquitted of a felony crime by a Crow Wing County jury.
Hunter's jury trial began Tuesday, Aug. 28, in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. The trial wrapped up Thursday with the jury finding Hunter not guilty of felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. Two months ago, a jury acquitted him for felony theft by swindle.
The assault and theft by swindle charges stem from a single incident, but the charges were tried separately. Hunter was arrested and charged March 2017 with four felonies-second-degree assault, theft by swindle, receiving stolen property and unlawful gambling. He also was charged with a gross misdemeanor for selling vehicle financing without a license. The charges of receiving stolen property, unlawful gambling and selling vehicle financing without a license are still pending in district court.
When Hunter was arrested, he was serving as the mayor of Crosby in north-central Minnesota.. He was elected in November 2016 for a two-year term as Crosby mayor. After his arrest, he continued serving as the mayor until he resigned in August 2017.
Hunter's attorney, Ed Shaw of Brainerd, said he and his client were pleased with the results and said it was "odd" the case was even prosecuted.
"What is disturbing with this (case) is people have the right to defend themselves on their property," Shaw said in a phone interview in reference to the assault charge. "(They were) minding their own business in their own truck and were being attacked. To have someone prosecuted for putting a hand on a gun they legally own where they were not brandishing it or waving it around, they were hardly doing anything with it. ... People have the right to defend themselves."
The criminal charges filed against Hunter weaved allegations of a love affair intertwined with an illegal financial scheme, culminating in confrontation. Together with alleged lover and accomplice Candice Ann McCartan, Hunter reportedly ran a confidence trick against her husband, a criminal complaint stated.
Thomas McCartan reported Hunter for a number of alleged crimes, chiefly the swindling of $90,000.
Thomas McCartan told police his wife and Hunter convinced him to purchase Buy Sell Trade, one of Hunter's businesses in Crosby. Candice McCartan was working for Hunter at Buy Sell Trade for about two years, the charges said.
Hunter's pitch was owning the store would be steady income, and it would help fix their credit problems, according to the criminal complaint. Hunter allegedly made Thomas McCartan believe the store made $8,000 and $12,000 a month in revenue.
Hunter also reportedly told Thomas McCartan the sale price was $45,000. But several days later, after Thomas McCartan already signed the sale documents, he found out he was actually required to pay Hunter $90,000 via a lien placed on his home.
As Thomas McCartan was divorcing Candice McCartan, his divorce attorney examined the sale documents, and it turned out what Thomas McCartan actually bought was the inventory of the store, some computers, the cash register and the ATM. The value of the purchase was between $5,000 and $7,000, his attorney told him-a far cry from the $90,000 he was supposed to pay.
The assault charge-the charge Hunter was found not guilty on-stems from a Sept. 24, 2016, incident with McCartans' son. The son approached a vehicle to talk to his mother through the driver's side window, as she was in the passenger's seat. The conversation became argumentative and the son allegedly observed Hunter drawing a pistol from the center console, holding it in his lap and pointing it at him, with his finger on the trigger, the complaint stated. The son was afraid he would be shot so he quickly got into his vehicle and left.
According to court documents, the only dispute with the assault incident is whether Hunter aimed the gun at the victim through the door of the vehicle with his finger on the trigger.
Shaw said the state's witness claimed Hunter pointed the gun from down on his lap, which Shaw said "would be very unusual and certainly not how anyone I know would handle a firearm."
Shaw said a second individual was present with the alleged victim, standing outside of the truck yelling at Hunter and McCartan. Shaw said Crosby police never interviewed this second person.
"I had my investigators talk to that person who gave a statement and that statement totally contradicted what the alleged victim was saying," Shaw said. "They still went ahead with the case. That person testified in court along with other witnesses and it pretty clearly contradicted the state's account."
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan declined to comment on the case, as Hunter still faces other criminal charges.