A confidential FBI informant was found guilty today on three of five criminal counts in connection with an early-morning confrontation that he had in a Minnetrista house in January.
Andrew Darst, 30, who is said to have played an important role in an undercover investigation of protesters at the Republican National Convention last September, was found guilty of third-degree damage to property, a gross misdemeanor, and two counts of assault in the fifth degree, which are misdemeanors. He was found not guilty of two counts of first- and second-degree burglary, both felonies.
Hennepin County District Judge Dan Mabley issued the verdict in a six-page written report and then briefly summarized his decision during a short court hearing this afternoon. Darst will be sentenced on May 18.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney John Halla said after the hearing that he will ask that Darst be sentenced to 180 days in jail. Darst's attorney, Patrick Flanagan, said, "We will be asking for much less. We believe there's a better way to address the conduct than incarceration for that amount of time -- if that's what they're asking for."
Darst was an undercover FBI informant who infiltrated an anarchist group that was planning protests and disruptions on the streets outside the Republican National Convention in St. Paul last September.
The information he gathered is said to be an important part of the case being developed against eight defendants who call themselves the RNC 8. They face conspiracy-to-commit-riot charges in Ramsey County. Their trial may begin in September. The Hennepin County charges against Darst involved an unrelated incident on Jan. 11.
Darst waived his right to a trial, including a jury trial, and agreed to have Mabley issue a decision. Mabley was given stipulated facts in the case, including police reports and interview transcripts and an affidavit by Darst, along with some exhibits.
Darst was arrested for breaking down a door and entering a house in Minnetrista and assaulting two men around 2 a.m., police said. He told police he was "wasn't comfortable with the people his wife was with there." According to the police report on the incident, his wife was drunk and Darst struck two men inside the house.
During a hearing before Mabley last week, Halla urged conviction of Darst on all five counts. He said that if Darst were concerned about the safety of his wife, "He had reasonable alternatives available," including calling police.
Flanagan said his client was not guilty, that there was no burglary, and that Darst was claiming "self defense and defense of others."
The case has been watched closely by supporters and attorneys of the RNC 8.
Former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley, who has not been involved in the case, said last month that Darst's own criminal case could potentially undermine his credibility as a witness for the prosecution of individuals accused of violence.
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