By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Court hearings were running behind schedule, as they often do, so Alex Marxen had about an hour to chat with friends and family in a hallway of the Blue Earth County Justice Center before his sentencing hearing Tuesday.
The mood and the conversation were jovial between Marxen and the others outside the courtroom as they waited for Assistant County Attorney Jon Kelm to finish with a hearing in another courtroom. His family said later that they didn't expect the conversation to be Marxen's last, for the next few years, as a free man.
He has been out of jail all but nine days since he was arrested and charged with attempted murder for a shooting in March. After a series of confrontations involving two vehicles full of people, Marxen, 19, got out of a van and aimed a .22 rifle in the direction of two men. He fired at one of the men as he charged toward him outside an Allen Court residence.
Prosecutors dropped the attempted murder charge in September after Marxen agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of assault and participating in a drive-by shooting. Sentencing guidelines called for a prison sentence of at least 48 months, but Marxen was allowed to return to his grandparents' home near Madison Lake where he had been on house arrest since his release. Two teens who were with Marxen during the incident pleaded guilty to drive-by shooting charges and were sentenced in juvenile court.
With Marxen's faded leather jacket folded over her arm, his mother, Ramona Malecha, said after the hearing that she was expecting her son to leave with her Tuesday. Otherwise she would have had him empty his pockets and leave his coat in the car.
"They didn't make the other guys go to jail right away and his house arrest has another five days left on it," she said. "He's not a bad kid. That's the worst thing. Everybody that knows him knows he's not a bad person."
Based on a pre-sentence investigation handled by Marxen's probation officer, Kelm recommended that Marxen be sentenced to 38 months in prison for assaulting one of the men by threatening him with the rifle. Kelm wanted another 48 months to run consecutively to that sentence, for a total of seven years in prison, for shooting toward the other victim.
Marxen's attorney, Scott Cody, told District Court Judge Krista Jass a seven-year prison sentence wouldn't be required to teach his client a lesson. One to four years would be enough to make it clear to Marxen that what he did was a serious, dangerous crime, Cody said.
"I don't think those extra three years will do anything more to show Alex Marxen that what he did was wrong," he said. "I also don't think three more years will be any benefit to the community."
Marxen told Jass he was sorry for what he did and relieved that no one was hurt by the stray bullet.
"I'm very sorry I put anyone in a position where they even had to worry about being hurt," he said.
Ian Hilmer is a friend of the family who spoke on Marxen's behalf. The well-known musician is also a teacher's aide who has worked with Marxen since Marxen was a student at East Junior High School, also attended the hearing to speak on Marxen's behalf. After the hearing Ian Hilmer said, to this point in his career, he wouldn't have taken the time to do that for any of his other students who have stumbled into the judicial system.
"When he asked me, I told him I will come down and say what I can," Hilmer said. "He's not a gangster. He did a dumb thing to impress people or to follow orders. I do not believe he will be a habitual criminal."
During the hearing, Hilmer told Jass that Marxen was a "good-hearted kid" who has done well while dealing with emotional and behavioral problems.
Kelm said there were no victim impact statements because he hasn't had recent contact with the Allen Court men.
Jass went with her own sentence after hearing from both sides. She sentenced Marxen to 36 months for the assault and 66 months for the drive-by shooting, but said the sentences would be served at the same time. So with credit for good time and the nine days he has served in jail, Marxen could be released from prison and placed on supervised release in about three years and six months.
Marxen and his family were clearly surprised when Jass ordered a bailiff to bring Marxen to the jail immediately through a side door in the courtroom. Cody had to take a few minutes to explain the sentence to his client first. Then Marxen asked to have a few last words with everyone else before he went through the steel doors that are hidden behind a wooden panel. Malecha asked if she could give her son one last hug.
The bailiff said no to both; he had to move things along.
"Come and visit; that's all I got to say," Marxen said as he was escorted away.