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Opening arguments heard Wednesday in New Richmond vs. Borst

For the second time this year, the city of New Richmond vs. Vernon Borst commenced in a St. Croix County court room Wednesday morning, after a mistrial was declared in the case in January. The case pits the city against a couple who claim they are simply making a living selling used items on West Fourth Street in New Richmond.

Borst received 40 citations from the City of New Richmond in 2007 for having old cars, boats, motorcycles and more stored on his property at 648 W. Fourth St.

The first trial was in January, when, after eight hours of proceedings, Judge Howard Cameron declared a mistrial, while apologizing, noting that more time should have been scheduled for the complicated case.

This time, Cameron, who is again presiding, told the jury to expect to hear testimony Thursday and Friday, and to make time available on Monday, should the jury wish to continue deliberations.

The same cast assembled in a courtroom at the St. Croix County Government Center, with Kristina Williamson representing the city of New Richmond, and Warren Brandt representing Borst, who is from rural Somerset.

Opening arguments began mid-morning Wednesday, after a six-member jury was empaneled, including an alternate. Cameron said that since he was expecting a more protracted trial, he wished to have on alternate.

Williamson relied primarily on a review of the city's nuisance ordinance, which Borst is alleged to have violated. She read extensively from the ordinance, which prohibits the storage of anything which may be considered garbage on city lots, and lists what is prohibited, such as any place in which vermin or flies may breed, matter decays, or any scrap accumulates. "The city can prove specific problems [with the property] with the testimony," Williamson said, and will provide the basis for the citations.

The violations are in the eyes of the beholder, countered Borst's attorney Brandt. The Borsts bought the land, with the sole purpose of using it to support a business that resells items. Borst attends auctions and garage sales for the purpose of finding items for resale on his property, Brandt said.

The only person who seems to think that there is a nuisance on the property is Police Chief Mark Samelstad, Brandt said, as he was the person who continued to order his officers to write citations against the property. "Who was it that determined that [Borst's] commercial property was junk?" Brandt asked in his opening statement. No one but the chief of police, he said. It was never specified exactly what should be done on the property. He added that while each of the citations that will be reviewed during the trial will be accompanied by photos, they are a "set up deal."

Testimony, which will include information from the police chief and New Richmond officers, was to begin Thursday morning.