COURTS: A former Moose Lake police officer wins a slander judgment against a town resident.
BY MARK STODGHILL
NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Former Moose Lake police officer Patrick Longbehn doesn't know how much of the $573,000 a Carlton County jury awarded him he will ever get, but he said it's the start of getting his good name back.
After a two-day trial this week, jurors deliberated about two hours before finding that Moose Lake resident Robin Schoenrock labeled Longbehn "Pat the Pedophile" and negligently caused him emotional distress "so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it."
Longbehn's attorney, Thomas Skare of Cloquet, said he believes it's the most money a Carlton County jury has ever awarded a plaintiff.
"I expect very little," Longbehn said Thursday when asked how much money he thinks he'll get from Schoenrock. "The majority of my vindication is that I can show the weight of the verdict through the court system. My accusations of his malice toward me are shown through the jury verdict."
Skare said he will first see if Schoenrock's homeowner's insurance will pay any of the jury award and also look at garnishing the defendant's wages.
Schoenrock started calling Longbehn by the slanderous nickname in 2001, Skare said. At the time, Longbehn was 34 and living with an 18-year-old woman.
Skare said the nickname spread through the Moose Lake school and throughout the community. After eight months as a Moose Lake police officer, Longbehn was fired.
"(Moose Lake Police Chief) Dale Heaton said that name was a significant reason for the termination because they thought that name was undermining his credibility," Skare said. "Then things kind of spiraled downward."
Heaton couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.
Longbehn, 39, is now living in the Twin Cities area. He said he working as a personal care attendant for an autistic 10-year-old and serving part time as a police officer for two communities he declined to identify.
"That comment made me lose one law enforcement job," he said. "My fear is that it can follow me."
Defendant Schoenrock, who works for the Minnesota Department of Corrections in its information technology division, was represented at trial by attorney James Balmer of Duluth.
"All I can tell you right now is Mr. Schoenrock has instructed me not to comment at this point," Balmer said Thursday. "I can tell you we are not through with this case yet."
The seven-member jury determined that Longbehn should receive $250,000 to punish defendant Schoenrock and discourage others from behaving in a similar way; $150,000 for past harm to his reputation, mental distress, humiliation and embarrassment; $80,000 for future harm to his reputation, mental distress, humiliation and embarrassment; $45,000 for past wage loss; $45,000 for future wage loss; and $3,000 for future health-care expenses.