Assault of GOP election candidate now being reviewed for possible charges

Shane Mekeland says he was punched while debating politics at a bar.
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The alleged assault of a Republican election candidate in southern Minnesota has been passed on to a county attorney for possible charges.

Earlier this month, Shane Mekeland said he was punched in the face after a chat about politics turned suddenly heated at a bar in St. George Township.

Mekeland, who is running for the GOP in house district 15B, said a man he was talking with took offense to a comment he made about the middle class.

He was then punched in the face, saying on Facebook that he suffered a concussion.

On Tuesday, the Benton County Sheriff's Office said it had completed its investigation into the assault and passed it on to the Benton County Attorney's Office to consider potential charges.

The sheriff's office that based on how Mekeland described the assault, it would constitute a misdemeanor at least under Minnesota law.

However, the injuries the candidate said he suffered could see it bumped up to a potential felony level assault, which requires proof that he suffered "substantial bodily harm."

The sheriff's office has identified the suspect, but has provided an explanation as to why he hasn't yet been arrested.

That's because under Minnesota law, peace officers are not able to make custodial arrests in cases of misdemeanor assault that happen outside of their presence.

They could have issued a citation for misdemeanor assault, but doing this could have removed the possibility the suspect be charged for a felony, as he instead could have appeared in court on misdemeanor charges.

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Officers were not able to make a felony arrest because Mekeland's medical records, which could prove he suffered "substantial bodily harm," were not immediately available.

The county attorney's office therefore will make the decision on what action will be taken against the suspect.

Mekeland is up against Democrat Karla Scapanski and Independent Myron Wilson in Tuesday's House election, which will fill the seat vacated by Rep. Jim Newberger, who is running against Amy Klobuchar in the U.S. Senate race.

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