The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office dismissed the case of a Cambridge man on June 15 who was charged in 2010 with sexual assault.
Daniel Douglas Spear, 56, was charged Nov. 24, 2010, with felony first degree criminal sexual conduct and felony kidnapping to facilitate felony or flight.
Having his name cleared is a relief, Spear said. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
According to the original complaint filed in 10th District Court in Cambridge, a woman told authorities she was at a Halloween party the night of Oct. 30 in northern Anoka County when her boyfriend became ill and went home. When she left the party, she said, a man later identified as Spear offered to drive her home.
She alleged that he drove the opposite direction of her residence and she discovered the windows and doors of the vehicle were locked. She said they arrived at a residence in Cambridge, and Spear shut the garage door behind them. The woman told authorities Spear allegedly took her inside where he sexually assaulted her.
Bail was set at $300,000 and Spear said he was in jail until the day after Thanksgiving while he secured jail bonds.
Cambridge criminal defense attorney Mark Benjamin represented Spear, who also hired private investigator Joe Collins to conduct an independent investigation.
During the case, the Isanti County Attorney’s Office declared a conflict with the case, transferring it over to Ramsey County.
“We came to the conclusion that we could no longer prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Dennis Gerhardstein, Ramsey County Attorney’s Office spokesman.
During his investigation, Collins said he examined both sides and discovered inconsistencies and discrepancies with the woman’s story.
“Without the investigator hired, it would have been hard to prove my innocence,” Spear said. “The police did a one-sided investigation and he did both sides. When I first met him, he said ‘You might as well tell me if you did it now, because I’ll find out if you did.’”
According to Benjamin, Spear met the woman Oct. 30 at a costume party. She had been left there by her boyfriend and Spear offered her a ride home. She passed out in his car and he didn’t know where to take her, so he went back to his home. They had consensual sex and then he took her back, dropping her off several blocks from her house to avoid a confrontation with her boyfriend.
A few hours later, she showed up at the emergency room and said the bruises on her arms were a result of rape.
However, investigator Collins said he later visited the bar and asked the proprietor if photos were taken during the costume contest. Photos from the costume contest showed that the woman already had bruising on her arms during the contest.
“It turns out her boyfriend had an extensive history of domestic abuse,” Collins said. “Right away we developed a lot of evidence of innocence. We turned it all over to the prosecution about a year ago and for some reason they decided they were still going to push it to trial, but two weeks ago that decision was changed to dismiss it.”
Spear said he was out mountain biking when he found out the case had been dismissed.
“I really at that point felt relief, but in a way I really wanted to go to trial to clear my name. It would have been a bigger deal going to trial,” he said. “It’s been a truly tough ordeal. For over a year and half now I had to deal with this, knowing that cards were stacked in my favor. Every time I heard better and better news with more information found out by my investigator that totally crushed the prosecution’s case, and I was jubilant. My case was getting stronger and stronger.”
Collins said the case should not have gone on as long as it did—he was able to prove in his investigation that Spear was not guilty of the charges.
“It’s very sad for Mr. Spear. He had to put out close to $70,000. The number of failures in this case is pretty sickening that this can happen,” he said. “I think the public needs to know that some of these agencies need better training in investigative work and report writing. There needs to be some more checks and balances.”
With the case dismissed, attorney Benjamin said he and Spear are simply happy to move on.
“We’re just glad that it’s over,” Benjamin said.