Political pundit loses appeal in ongoing feud with Minneapolis neighbors

Longtime Republican lobbyist, political pundit and political newsletter publisher Sarah Janecek has lost her appeal of a disorderly conduct conviction stemming from an ongoing fight with her Lowry Hill neighbors in Minneapolis.

For over a decade, Janecek and Lee and Diane Rosenthal have been neighbors and not at all friendly ones. Apparently the feud started when Rosenthal was cited by the city for renting out a third apartment in his house in 2011, which was zoned as a duplex. He blamed Janecek for blowing the whistle.

Her conviction stemmed from an August 2013 incident in which she was videotaped throwing trash onto the Rosenthals’ driveway. The couple had installed cameras as a result of the feud and prosecutors presented 17 videos of Janecek.

The jury found Janecek guilty of disorderly conduct and two counts of littering, but acquitted her of stalking and trespassing charges.

In her appeal, Janecek claimed the videos alone were insufficient to prove her guilt; that another witness was required. Today, the Court of Appeals rejected the contention.

“Without question, witnesses to conduct often present the best evidence of offensive conduct that tends ‘reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others,’” Judge Lucinda Jesson wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel, citing language in the state’s disorderly conduct law. “But despite a myriad of cases that refer to these witnesses, no case specifically requires one. Given the plain language of the statute, we conclude that it does not require that the disorderly act be witnessed in person at the time of the act.”

Janecek argues that her conduct was not objectively disorderly. She also asserts that the Rosenthals failed to testify that they were alarmed, angered, or felt resentment. But the question here is whether the jury could reasonably conclude from the evidence that Janecek’s conduct was disorderly—a term the legislature has broadened to include conduct that is not only obscene, boisterous, or noisy, but also “offensive.”

And while we agree that knocking over a trash container is not obscene, boisterous, or particularly noisy, given the backdrop of the neighbors’ ongoing feud, there was sufficient evidence by which the jury could have found it offensive.

Finally, despite Janecek’s claim that she explicitly testified that she did not know her conduct would alarm, anger, or disturb the Rosenthals, the jury was free to reject her testimony and believe the testimony of the Rosenthals instead.

Here’s the full ruling.