Over the past several weeks, a number of Fillmore County residents have appeared in court. An Ostrander man spent the weekend in jail, June 14 to 17, for alleged violations of his release to await trial. A Preston man was sentenced after pleading guilty to a shooting in Preston last December. New charges have been filed against a mother and son who allegedly stole nearly $5,000 worth of frozen gopher feet from a freezer in Granger. And, a Mabel woman was sentenced to repay Historic Bluff Country organization after admitting she stole money from the non-profit organization while serving as its director.

Animal neglect

Wilbur Schmoll of Ostrander, accused of neglecting more than 50 horses, ponies and mules, was charged last December with 26 counts of animal negligence and improper disposal of animal carcasses. Over 55 animals were removed from Schmoll's home near Ostrander when concerned neighbors reported seeing malnourished animals in his pens and deceased animals laying where they had dropped.

Schmoll had pleaded not guilty in response to the charges and was released on the condition that he not own or possess any animals, excluding dogs, set forth by Judge Robert Benson in January.

Schmoll was held in the Fillmore County Jail over a recent weekend because it was alleged that he had violated his release conditions. The allegations came after authorities had received information that Schmoll may have been purchasing horses at an auction in St. Charles and that he may still own animals being boarded in Mower County.

He was booked on Friday, June 15, but released the following Monday, June 17, after a hearing with Judge James Fabian. According to Brett Corson, the county attorney, Fabian reminded Schmoll that he could not own or possess any horses and indicated that he needed to sell the horses he has and to provide proof of that.

The next scheduled court date for Schmoll is Aug. 20 at 9 a.m.

Shooter sentenced

Roger James Bergmann, Jr., of Preston, formerly of Canton, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Monday, June 17, after pleading guilty to charges resulting from a shooting incident last December. Bergmann had pled guilty to attempted third-degree murder charges in April as well as to second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and second-degree controlled substance crime. Ten other charges were dismissed.

The December incident caused the Fillmore Central schools to go into lockdown as Bergmann fled from the scene of the crime and led law enforcement officers on a long chase that ended near Winona. Bergmann eventually got out of his truck and surrendered to authorities. Authorities then searched his truck and found ammunition, crystal meth and cash.

The woman who was shot in the shoulder and neck was treated in Saint Marys Hospital and has since fully recovered from her injury. The woman, who is also Bergmann's girlfriend, was in court and asked the judge for leniency.

On April 29, when Bergmann pleaded guilty to attempted murder, assault, and drug charges, it was in an agreement that contemplated a sentence of 120 months. However, District Judge Robert Benson opted to set aside that plea agreement and ordered Bergmann to serve 144 months, the maximum under the sentencing guidelines.

Bergmann's defense attorney, Frederick Suhler, Jr., told KTTC News last week that Bergmann will serve at least eight years hard time under the best of circumstances. With good behavior, it's possible for a third of a prison sentence to be served outside prison under supervision.

"It was a very unfortunate situation," said Suhler. "Roger took ownership of what he did - he was heavily using methamphetamine at the time. Meth played a substantial part in his behavior. He let the drugs get control, and became almost an alien presence."

Bergmann was given credit for 179 days served.

Theft of gopher feet

Tina Marie Garrison of Canton and her son, Junior Lee Dillon of Preston appeared in court last Monday, June 17, after being charged in May for two felony charges of receiving stolen property and theft and two misdemeanor charges of the same.

The mother and son are accused of stealing nearly $5,000 in frozen gopher feet from a freezer in Granger and selling them in Harmony Township for the $3 per pair bounty.

Garrison waived her right to an omnibus hearing and pleaded not guilty on Monday. Her son is awaiting his July 29 hearing.

According to a report in the Post Bulletin, the complaint alleges a gopher trapper contacted the Fillmore County Sheriff's Department in December, saying bags of frozen gopher feet had been stolen from his freezer between Nov. 23 and Dec. 5.

The owner contacted local townships that offer rewards for gophers to keep down their numbers and found Dillon had turned in $1,014 in feet in November. During the Dec. 5 meeting of the Harmony Township, Garrison turned in $3,780 in feet, which the township clerk said is unusual. Garrison said they had been saving them for three years.

When interviewed later in December, Dillon denied turning in any feet for the bounty, saying maybe someone used his name, the complaint said. He said he knew about the missing feet because he was in the owners' house frequently.

When the feet were taken, the owner "thought they were just messing with him," Dillon said.

When Garrison was interviewed, she said she got the feet from her oldest son who got them from a friend, the complaint said. They worked and weren't able to turn in the feet for the reward so they asked Garrison to do it.

When that son was contacted, he denied talking with his mother, according to the complaint.

Former administrator sentenced

A former administrator of Southeastern Minnesota Historic Bluff Country, Inc., who admitted to stealing money from the nonprofit, was sentenced Tuesday, June 18, in Fillmore County District Court.

Kristina Jeanne Nolte, 42, of Mabel, was ordered to serve 365 days in jail, with 356 days stayed for three years. In addition to the nine days of jail time, she must pay $14,990 in restitution and fines.

She also must have no contact with Historic Bluff Country staff or board members and have no fiduciary responsibility in her workplace or organization during her term of probation, which is three years.

Nolte pleaded guilty in May to one count of gross misdemeanor theft by check. In exchange for the plea, an identical charge was dismissed, as were two counts of forgery and two counts of aggravated forgery, all felonies.

The case stems from an incident reported in December 2011 when the treasurer of Historic Bluff Country told officials she believed Nolte had been using HBC funds for personal use, citing inconsistencies and suspicious transactions in the records dating back to Nolte's hiring in 2008.

The treasurer learned Nolte had been using a credit card in the name of a former HBC employee, then paying the credit card bill from the group's bank account, according to the complaint.

In addition, board members of the group allege Nolte fabricated a board meeting and minutes in order to obtain a $15,000 loan for HBC, which they believe Nolte used to cover up some of the "suspicious financial transactions and irresponsible management of HBC," the report says.

The bank has also filed a civil action against Nolte in regard to the alleged fraudulent loan.