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Published November 09 2010

Perjury charge dismissed in domestic assault case

A Clay County judge has dismissed a perjury charge against a 57-year-old Moorhead man convicted of domestic assault for pushing his 82-year-old mother down a flight of stairs.

Michael Ray Mertz was accused of perjury for not including the $36,900 he’d buried in his mother’s yard when applying for a public defender to represent him on the assault charges.

Mertz buried the money immediately after pushing his mother on April 14, an attack that came after an argument about whether he was stealing from his mother. Police investigated the swindling allegations, but no charges were filed.

He pleaded guilty to the assault charges and was sentenced to four months in jail and five years of probation, but Mertz contested the perjury charge by arguing he corrected his false statement prior to it affecting the proceedings.

Neither state law nor state court precedents have specified the standards for a recantation defense, but Clay County District Court Judge Lisa Borgen agreed with Mertz’s argument in an order released Friday.

Borgen’s reasoning relied on the federal perjury law’s definition of recantation.

Prosecutors are likely to appeal Borgen’s order, said Jenny Samarzja, an assistant Clay County attorney.