By Dan Nienaber
---- — MANKATO — A pregnant woman whose husband is to go to trial in May for allegedly dealing cocaine is now facing felony charges herself.
Her husband's attorney claims the prosecutor is attempting to use the charges to coerce his client into a plea deal. The prosecutor said the allegations against the woman are the result of an ongoing investigation and the timing of the charges being filed is a coincidence.
Dana Lee Lundgren, 31, was charged Friday with one count of conspiring to sell large amounts of cocaine, conspiring to possess large amounts of cocaine and child endangerment.
Lundgren's 40-year-old husband, Paul, was arrested by the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force in July after he allegedly sold cocaine to an informant. Agents reported Paul Lundgren sold a total of about a half ounce of cocaine to the informant for $1,500 in marked bills during three different sales. Agents reported finding more than an ounce of cocaine, about $10,000 in cash and handguns that were easily accessible to the Lundgrens' children when their house south of Mankato was searched.
The same criminal complaint was filed against Dana Lundgren, except additional information was added. Her complaint said a witness came forward who said she would also deal with Dana Lundgren when buying cocaine from Paul Lundgren during the past six to seven years.
Informants working with the task force said Paul Lundgren never sold cocaine in person. Arrangements were made with text messages to leave cash in a parked vehicle, then that cash would be replaced with cocaine before the buyer returned later. The new witness told investigators she didn't want to leave her money in a vehicle, so she would give it to Dana Lundgren. She also said she would text Dana Lundgren about buying cocaine if she couldn't contact Paul Lundgren.
"This case is still actively under investigation because he sold cocaine to a lot of people," said Chris Rovney, assistant Blue Earth County attorney. "We had a lot of people tell us she was also involved."
Paul Lundgren's attorney, Chris Rosengren, said the charges are a legal maneuver to entice his client to accept a plea deal. Dana Lundgren is eight months pregnant with twins and is scheduled to give birth a short time after her first court appearance in late March. The allegations against Dana Lundgren are also based on a statement made by a former "junkie," Rosengren said.
"This is just a tactic to strong arm him into taking a plea," Rosengren said. "They're just trying to make her guilty by association. They have such a weak case, but what is he going to do? She can't go to prison and they don't want to have their children taken away."
Rovney said he did make a plea offer to Rosengren and Paul Lundgren. The deal likely would have resulted in a long prison sentence, Rosengren said.
"I did offer that I wouldn't pursue if he pleaded guilty, but he didn't want to do that," Rovney said.
The attorneys also disagree about whether Paul Lundgren should be given the opportunity to participate in Drug Court. Rosengren said Lundgren's drug abuse was prompted by severe pain from back surgeries in 2007 and 2012. He and his wife also lost a child in a late-term miscarriage in 2009. Lundgren, who posted a bond for his release from jail after his arrest, also has successfully completed drug treatment, Rosengren said.
"This guy is the perfect candidate for Drug Court," he said. "Drug Court is made for people like this."
Drug Court candidates are chosen on a case-by-case basis by a group of people, including attorneys, law enforcement officers and people who provide drug treatment. Prosecutors have the ability to veto cases involving first- or second-degree drug charges.
Rovney said Lundgren was turned down because he was allegedly selling cocaine for a long time before he was caught. The guns and large amounts of cash and cocaine found in his house also were factors, he said.
"We decided he was not appropriate for Drug Court," Rovney said. "They considered it and we said no based on the facts of the case."