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Amy Forliti, Associated Press , Published November 10 2010

Minnesota judge won’t dismiss aided suicide case

MINNEAPOLIS – A former Minnesota nurse who prosecutors say sought out depressed people in Internet chat rooms and encouraged two of them to kill themselves won’t get his case dismissed on free speech grounds, a judge ruled Tuesday.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, is charged with two counts of aiding suicide, for allegedly advising and encouraging an English man and a Canadian woman to take their own lives.

His attorney had asked that the case be dismissed, saying Melchert-Dinkel had no direct participation in any suicides, and that his e-mail and Internet conversations involved protected speech. Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville disagreed, saying in a 21-page ruling that speech that aids the suicide of another is not protected by the First Amendment.

The judge said Minnesota law doesn’t prevent people from “expressing opinions or discussing suicide,” but it does make it a crime to participate in a narrow and precise type of speech – speech that “intentionally and directly advises, encourages or aids a specific person to end their own life.”

“Thus, speech that directly encourages and imminently incites the act of suicide ... falls outside the protection of the First Amendment,” Neuville wrote.

According to Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster, Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging, and cruised the Internet for potential victims. When he found them, he posed as a female nurse, feigned compassion and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves. Melchert-Dinkel also entered phony suicide pacts, Beaumaster has said.

Melchert-Dinkel was charged in April with two counts of aiding suicide in the 2005 hanging death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, and the 2008 drowning of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario.

The prosecutor said Tuesday that he is pleased with the judge’s ruling and is preparing for trial. The next court hearing is set for Nov. 19. A plea is expected to be formally entered then.

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