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Dealer who stored 130 pounds of pot in Houlton sentenced in St. Croix County

Karl R. Heinrichs

HUDSON — Karl Heinrichs was arrested in 2016 with 40 pounds of marijuana products in his car near his Stillwater home — an offense that would ultimately trigger a mandatory prison sentence.

But Heinrichs' problems weren't contained to Minnesota.

That same day, authorities also turned up another 134 pounds of pot Heinrichs had been storing in Wisconsin at a Houlton storage unit. His criminal problems suddenly expanded from one state to two and exposed him to the possibility of penalties in both places.

The 45-year-old pleaded guilty to felony drug possession last year in Minnesota, where he is serving a four-year prison sentence. But as his case in Wisconsin reached its final stage last week, Heinrichs' attorney argued that he didn't deserve double the punishment.

It's all "one big course of conduct that just happened to cross a bridge into different jurisdictions," defense attorney Eric Nelson told St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack at Heinrichs' sentencing hearing.

"It gives a recognition that this is a single course of conduct," Nelson said of a joint sentencing recommendation, which called for Heinrichs' Wisconsin sentence to run concurrent with the time he's serving in Minnesota.

Vlack warned Heinrichs that he was chiefly concerned with undermining the seriousness of the offense — a sentencing factor Wisconsin judges must consider — but later agreed to the recommendation, which was backed by St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Ed Minser.

Left in limbo is how Heinrichs spends his time in prison.

He was granted access to eventual enrollment in a Minnesota boot camp program, though Vlack did not authorize a similar program through Wisconsin due to age limits. It was unclear whether Minnesota corrections officials would allow boot camp for Heinrichs due to the Wisconsin discrepancy.

Heinrichs, a self-described "law school dropout," pleaded for mercy from Vlack, just as he did six months earlier in Washington (Minn.) County, where he received his Minnesota sentence.

He said he had put substance problems behind him until he agreed to join law school classmates for a celebratory drink in 2010. That, Heinrichs explained to Vlack, tripped a destructive trigger in his life that led to dropping out of law school, drinking heavily, falling into debt and selling pot.

"I'm not trying to deflect any responsibility from this," Heinrichs told the judge.

Vlack interrupted Heinrichs' speech to ask him why he wasn't thinking of his stated plan to help others by working as a counselor on the date of his offense.

Heinrichs said he was "high and not thinking.

"I was directionless," he said.

He begged Vlack for mercy so he could return home and help his teenage daughter and offer others positive support.

"This is my last hope," said Heinrichs, who became a familiar sight at Minnesota Vikings games, where he donned his 'Sir Death' alter-ego as part of the Vikings World Order fan group.

Vlack stepped away from the bench for 10 minutes before returning to hand down his sentence.

The judge returned with what he described as a fair resolution — but one that takes Heinrichs' significant criminal history into consideration.

"You've 'been here, done that' a number of times," Vlack said.

The judge structured the sentence for all the time to be absorbed into the Minnesota sentence, but allowed for Heinrichs to serve the entirety of it if he violates the terms of his release.

After receiving the sentence, Heinrichs stood and thanked the judge.

"Don't tell me that," Vlack said. "Tell that to your daughter."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

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