One of four men accused of an off-campus burglary and rape incident is going to trial this week in Hennepin County District Court.
Puiassance J. Andersen, along with several acquaintances, is charged with 11 counts of aiding and abetting burglary, robbery and criminal sexual conduct.
In October 1996, a group of men broke into an apartment near the Como neighborhood. Two of the three women living there were raped, and the men stole a car, a television and other property.
Andersen and Antonio D. Burton were later arrested in the stolen car near Eau Claire, Wisc. Also charged in the break-in are Giezwa P. Andersen — Puiassance’s brother — and Victor M. Porter. Porter pleaded guilty in February to one count of burglary and might testify against Andersen.
Jury selection should begin this week. But before the testimony phase of the trial can begin, a judge must rule on several evidentiary issues. According to court documents, among the evidence the state seeks to introduce are the following:
ùA letter Puiassance Andersen wrote while in prison in Eau Claire.
Andersen never signed an agreement that he received an explanation of Eau Claire County Jail rules, which state that mail not addressed to the courts, attorneys, state or federal officials, media or clergy can be opened. The prosecution says that this does not change his status as a pretrial detainee and therefore information in the letter is admissible.
Neither side would elaborate on the letter’s contents. Assistant County Attorney Steve Redding said “the letter contains, arguably, some admissions,” while Paul Schneck, Andersen’s attorney, said that “It’s not inconsistent with his (Andersen’s) plea.”
Andersen pleaded innocent; his defense is expected to center on the claim that he did not take part in the break-in.
ù Statements he made to Eau Claire detectives about his whereabouts on Oct. 8 and how he came to be a passenger in the stolen car at the time of his arrest. Minnesota law requires that such interviews be taped. But the prosecution argues that because the interview took place in Wisconsin, where there is no such requirement, it is admissible.
Andersen’s brother Giezwa was also expected to go to trial this week. However, his case was pushed back so that his lawyer, Keith Ellison of the Legal Rights Center, could try another case.
Currently, Giezwa Andersen is not in custody. He was released in October “over our objections, due to the seriousness of the crimes,” said Assistant County Attorney Anne Taylor, formerly a prosecutor on the case. The terms of Giezwa Andersen’s release require, among other things, that he wear a monitoring bracelet and keep a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew.
Puiassance Andersen, Burton and Porter remain in custody at the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center.