Yesterday a Rice County Jury convicted Matthew Christopher Kurtenbach, 30, of Felony Receiving Stolen Property. On August 15, 2020, the Faribault Police Department received multiple driving complaints about a black Ford Explorer with no license plates. A Faribault Officer found a 2016 Black Ford Explorer in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Faribault near the area of the driving complaints. The officer determined that the VIN number on the vehicle matched a vehicle reported stolen from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Kurtenbach was located in the Wal-Mart and told police that he had taken the vehicle on a test drive from a car dealership in Sioux Falls, but claimed someone had taken the vehicle from him. He also said he had received the vehicle from a friend. Kurtenbach had signed a test drive agreement with the dealer in Sioux Falls on August 13, 2020 promising to return the vehicle the same day, the dealership also had a photocopy of Kurtenbach’s driver’s license. Kurtenbach did not respond to multiple calls from the dealership requesting return of the vehicle. Kurtenbach is currently in prison, serving a sentence on other charges.
Assistant Rice County Attorney Adam Johnson prosecuted the case. The trial is significant because it is the first jury case tried to completion in Rice County since early March of 2020. In person hearings were suspended in March of 2020 by order of the Chief Justice. In November a ban on in-person hearings was re-instated and Rice County judges determined that jury trials could proceed starting in May.
The Rice County Courthouse was built in 1932, and its current jury trial courtrooms are too small to accommodate social distancing and CDC requirements. An undesignated space in the Rice County Government Services Building was turned into a courtroom using Federal CARES Act Funding, the room was dubbed Courtroom 5 by District Court Administration. The furniture in the room was designed to be moved to the courthouse when the use of Courtroom 5 is done to replace worn out items in Courtroom 4.
The design of Courtroom 5 was the result of cooperation of the Rice County Parks and Facilities Office, District Court Administration, the Rice County Sheriff, and the Rice County Attorney. “That we were able to try a case to conclusion in this space shows the benefit of all these professionals working together to solve space needs the current courthouse could not meet,” Rice County Attorney John Fossum said.
“Having the space available and a completed jury trial will allow for case to move forward to trial or resolution. Not being able to have trials has created a significant backlog of cases awaiting resolution,” Fossum added.
John Fossum, Rice County Attorney (507) 332-6103
Sara Folsted, Rice County Administrator (507) 332-6121