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After Deadline: Frac sand trial had comic moment

WINONA — At first blush, Calvin and Hobbes would appear to have no place in a courtroom. However, the popular comic strip somehow found its way into last week's trial of 20 silica sand protesters.

While Winona County Judge Jeffrey Thompson was considering what orders to give the six-member jury as they went into deliberation, he cited one of Bill Watterson's comics to illustrate a point. In the comic, the boy and his stuffed tiger wonder aloud why superheroes are always depicted battling malicious bad guys rather than fighting everyday problems in, say, the city council chamber.

Judge Thompson went on to encourage the protesters to continue working through the typical regulatory paths — the city council or county board, for example — to change peoples' minds on frac sand mining. When pressed by defense attorney Richmond McCluer on whether the specific Calvin and Hobbes comic strip would be entered into the record as evidence, Judge Thompson gave it to his clerk with a wry smile.

"Perhaps a first?" McCluer quipped.

"Perhaps," Judge Thompson responded as a crowd of 30 laughed.


The 20 defendants were found guilty of misdemeanor trespassing shortly after that exchange and sentenced to one year of non-supervised probation.

— Brett Boese

A political push

BERNE — Some politicians will go to great lengths to help get media attention to their cause.

A week ago, Rep. Tim Walz even helped try to push a TV vehicle out of the ditch.

He was at a rural Berne house to highlight problems with the cost of propane, which has shot up about 400 percent in a few weeks. When the Channel 8 (FOX) SUV drove up, the driver put the left wheels over the shoulder and couldn't get out.

Walz and some of his staff put on their heavy clothes and went out to try to push the vehicle out of the snow. The more they tried, the farther the SUV slid into the snow. They gave up, went inside and held their press meeting with Walz and a homeowner who was walloped with a big propane bill a week before.

Afterwards, Walz had to leave for another meeting. Efforts to get the FOX SUV out of the ditch finally succeeded when a U.S. Mail truck came by with a hitch pulled out the TV vehicle.


— John Weiss

Not too big a surprise for Brede

Even before Gov. Mark Dayton announced that his chief of staff, Tina Smith, would be his running mate last week, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede had his suspicions.

Brede said he was on a conference call with Smith the week before the announcement and teased the Destination Medical Center Corp. Board chairwoman.

"I kidded her. I said, 'You got a press conference announcing you are going to be lieutenant governor?"

Brede said he can't remember exactly what her response was, but it was either that she "could not or would not comment on that."

— Heather J. Carlson

After Deadline is a weekly column of notes, gossip and observations that didn't make it into news stories last week. Got a tip for After Deadline? Send it to

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