Alpha News was inside the Anoka County Courthouse Monday morning to see for ourselves Minnesota’s revolving door.
It started with an assault inside a prison years ago. There’s been frustration every step of the way since.
Lino Lakes corrections officer Steven Tucker believed he would find some closure after an attack inside the prison in January 2020.
“I’m severely disappointed,” Tucker said.
Alcohol was found inside a cell that day when Tucker went to help.
“The defendant, Mr. Vernier … grabbed a chair, lifted it right over his head, hit me right in the forehead. Gave me a nice concussion. I got to my chemical and started using that,” Tucker recalled.
Daniel Vernier was released two months later.
He was charged with fourth-degree assault of a correctional employee but failed to show up three times in court. The law caught up with him again last year when Vernier assaulted a security worker at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Paul. A witness told Crime Watch Minneapolis that same night Vernier chased him through his apartment building with a machete.
Crime Watch found the Minnesota Freedom Fund covered his $20,000 bail after that arrest. The citizen watchdog also found he pleaded guilty to felony theft, since the machete was stolen from a person he assaulted, and one count of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault.
Vernier was sentenced on Oct. 4, 2022, to 18 months by Judge John A. Guthmann. He was given credit for 221 days in jail. He was released from prison on Feb. 27, 2023, with credit for time served. He’s still on “supervised release” with Ramsey County Corrections until Aug. 26, 2023.
Vernier is a 16-time felon for charges such as assault, burglary, and domestic abuse dating back 25 years.
Included in that record is failing to render aid to Mahnomen County Deputy Chris Dewey in 2009 after he was shot. Dewey died 18 months later from his injuries.
Vernier again failed to show up in court Monday. It’s now the fourth time in Tucker’s case.
Tucker read some of his letter to Alpha News that he’d hoped to read for the judge during sentencing.
“Physically, I was left with a concussion. I had severe headaches, light sensitivity, and nausea that at times nearly sent me back to the hospital,” Tucker said.
“However, it’s the psychological effects that are still with me to this day,” he added.
After at least 14 officer assaults at three Minnesota prisons in the last six weeks, Tucker can’t help but wonder what they all signed up for.
“Just immediately I thought of the other officers who were recently assaulted and like we’re finding out together what it looks like at the end of the train of justice here. Justice would be someone going to prison for what they did,” Tucker said.
Another warrant has been issued for Vernier. Still, it’s likely he won’t serve any more time for Tucker’s attack, getting credit for time already served.
“I think it’s egregious. I think we are going the wrong way in criminal justice in Minnesota,” Tucker said. “Something needs to change.”