The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 20, 2013

Man in N. Kato drug, gun case gets prison

Judge tells family treatment not an option due to plea deal

The Mankato Free Press

---- — ST. PETER — A 30-year-old North Mankato felon who was arrested again in January after a large amount of methamphetamine, guns and ammunition were found in his home received a prison sentence much shorter than he was facing Tuesday, but not the treatment option his family wanted.

Following a plea deal reached last month, District Court Judge Allison Krehbiel sentenced Michael Donald Caya to 54 months in prison. The plea deal allowed Caya to admit to only possessing a gun in his car when he was arrested at his place of employment in Mankato as members of the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force were moving in to search his North Mankato home on Jan. 20.

Another 21 felony charges related to what was found in his home were dismissed in the plea agreement with the Nicollet County attorney's office. Krehbiel also reduced Caya's presumed five-year prison sentence by six months so he could qualify for the Department of Corrections' Challenge Incarceration Program. He will still have to be approved for the program by DOC officials.

Before sentencing Caya, Krehbiel told his family she had received their letters asking her to consider treatment instead of prison. She said that wasn't an option because Caya's attorney, Allen Eskens, and prosecutors had taken a long time negotiating the plea deal.

"I can't deviate from that unless everyone approves," she said. "And I can guarantee (prosecutors) won't agree."

Eskens also told Krehbiel he had reached an agreement to not fight the forfeiture of Caya's Chrysler Pacifica or the guns that were confiscated from the vehicle and Caya's home. Prosecutors agreed to return a confiscated Toyota Tundra to Caya's wife.

Task Force investigators reported finding several handguns, rifles and a shotgun in Caya's house. They also reported finding a large amount of drugs, including methamphetamine, bags of marijuana, ecstasy and prescription pills. Some of the guns, drugs, ammunition and drug paraphernalia were easily accessible to children living in the house.

Prior to the plea deal, Eskens had raised questions about how the search warrant for the house was obtained. A witness used to justify the warrant told investigators Caya had delivered guns to a residence in Eagle Lake. When that witness was arrested at the Eagle Lake residence in September, she didn't mention Caya. She told investigators about Caya a month later. Only the later statement was included in the search warrant request.

Krehbiel issued an order in July saying she would have a hearing to consider if the search warrant request was misleading. The hearing didn't happen because a plea deal was reached.