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Defendant acknowledges ‘mistake,’ gets jail time instead of pri

By Janice Gregorson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

"I made a mistake," a Rochester man said Monday in asking a district judge to give him a chance at probation rather than send him to prison for swinging a pole at a teenager.

Miles Aaron Westergaard, 44, pleaded guilty in September to an amended charge of aggravated harassment. In exchange, two counts of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon were dismissed. He was back in court Monday afternoon for sentencing.

Defense attorney Rick Smith asked the judge to depart from state sentencing guidelines that call for a year and a day in prison. The prosectution had agreed to a departure if court services said Westergaard is amenable to probation.

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But prosecutor Lisa Swenson said this was a serious offense against someone Westergaard didn’t know.

He was accused of entering a residence in southeast Rochester on June 30 and hitting a 16-year-old boy twice with a metal railing post. The boy had told Westergaard that he needed to slow down his driving. The complaint said Westergaard started shouting, pulled a railing post off some steps and swung it at the boy.

"I just want to proceed with my life and not drink," Westergaard told the judge. "I have hurt my family and my kids. What I did was wrong."

Judge Joseph Wieners stayed execution of the prison sentence and put Westergaard on probation for five years. He also ordered him to serve 90 days in jail with work/release privileges. He told Westergaard that he can’t go in bars anymore, and that means is no longer working as a bartender at the VFW. The judge said that type of work is "dangerous" for a person with alcohol problems.

The judge also ordered Westergaard to serve 126 days on electronic home detention, to be served at the rate of 42 days every year for three years. He is to complete chemical dependency evaluation and any treatment required and "not go into environments where alcohol is the primary business." He also is to pay a $500 fine or do 50 hours community work service.

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