Those who get drunk on their own can’t be considered ‘mentally incapacitated’ in rape cases, Minnesota Supreme Court says

Paul Thissen
Justice Paul Thissen in a Feb. 25, 2016 file photo.

  • Rape victims who get drunk on their own aren’t “mentally incapacitated,” Minnesota high court said.
  • “Mentally incapacitated” applies when someone gets drunk without their consent, the court said.
  • Sexual assault survivors and advocates decried the ruling but said they weren’t surprised.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An individual who gets drunk on their own can not be qualified as “mentally incapacitated” in a rape case, the Minnesota Supreme Court said in a ruling released Wednesday.

The ruling comes in the case of man who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met following an incident where she was denied entry to a bar for being too drunk.

Francois Momolu Khalil was appealing the 2019 case in which he was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual misconduct because the woman was considered “mentally incapacitated.”

Court documents from the appeal said Khalil and two of his friends invited the woman and a friend to a party but instead took them to a private home where the woman, who was only identified by her initials, blacked out.

She woke up to find Khalil raping her. After telling him to stop, she then passed out again.

In a decision written by Justice Paul Thissen, the state’s supreme court said that the definition of “mentally incapacitated” – which was used by the lower court – “does not include a person who is voluntarily intoxicated by alcohol,” meaning that the designation only applies when the alcohol was given to someone without their knowledge.

This “unreasonably strains and stretches the plain text of the statute,” they added.

The ruling has garnered criticism from sexual assault survivors and advocates, including Abby Honold, who told MPR News that the language of the statute has always been a loophole that makes it difficult for sexual assault survivors to bring cases forward.

“There are a lot of people who are told when they report now, and when their case is referred to a prosecutor that essentially their sexual assault was technically legal. It’s always so heartbreaking to have to hear that from yet another survivor who came forward and reported,” Honold told the outlet.

In response to the ruling, state rep. Kelly Moller said she is sponsoring legislation that says consent can’t be given if a victim is incapacitated, even if they voluntarily took drugs or alcohol.

“Victims who are intoxicated to the degree that they are unable to give consent are entitled to justice. Our laws must clearly reflect that understanding, and today’s Supreme Court ruling highlights the urgency lawmakers have to close this and other loopholes throughout our CSC law,” Rep. Moller said.

“Prosecutors, survivors, and advocates have identified the problem and the CSC Working Group did incredibly tough work to identify the solutions. Minnesotans who experience unthinkable trauma deserve to see the Legislature take action on this immediately.”

Khalil is serving a five-year prison sentence but his lawyer, Will Walker, told MPR News that he anticipates he will be released soon.

Insider has reached out to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office for comment.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at salarshani@insider.com

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Out of 800,000 fully vaccinated people in Minnesota, only 89 tested positive for COVID-19

Vaccine
Registered Nurse Robert Orallo administers the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Blood Bank of Alaska in Anchorage on March 19, 2021.

  • In Minnesota, 89 fully vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • That’s a very small portion of the 800,000 Minnesotans who have gotten all of their shots.
  • Even vaccinated people who get COVID-19 likely have some protection from severe illness.
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Health officials across the US have been reporting some cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people, but it’s not a reason for concern.

Most recently, the Minnesota Department of Health identified 89 “breakthrough” infections in people who got two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

More than 800,000 people have been fully vaccinated in Minnesota to date, putting the breakthrough rate at around 0.01%.

“That’s well below one tenth of one percent – an incredibly small number of cases that dramatically illustrates how effective these vaccines are,” state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said in a briefing Wednesday.

Fully vaccinated people are less likely to get severe COVID-19

Although a small number of fully vaccinated people do get infected with COVID-19, they’re likely to have milder cases than they would’ve had they not gotten the vaccine.

In clinical trials, the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines were 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.

Some breakthrough cases in Minnesota required hospitalization, but their outcomes were better overall, Andrew Olson, director of hospital medicine at M Health Fairview, told AP News.

None of the 89 fully vaccinated Minnesotans who tested positive for COVID-19 have died, Ehersmann said in the briefing Wednesday.

“It’s important to know that even if someone is vaccinated and then goes on to be one of the few unfortunate people to develop a breakthrough case, there still can be some level of protection provided by the vaccine,” she said.

When we reach herd immunity, breakthrough cases will be even less common

Breakthrough cases are not a reason to doubt vaccine effectiveness, Ehersmann said in the briefing. Health officials weren’t shocked that some vaccinated people tested positive for COVID-19; in fact, they were pleasantly surprised that the case rate for that group was so low.

Even if a small number of vaccinated people do get sick, their vaccinations bring the country closer to reaching the herd immunity threshold, where the people immune to the coronavirus will outnumber those who are not protected.

“At that point, the virus will not be able to find the small number of people who remain susceptible, either because they didn’t get vaccinated or because they didn’t have a strong enough immune response to the vaccine,” Ehersmann said.

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First known US case of highly transmissible mutated coronavirus strain from Brazil reported in Minnesota

minnesota coronavirus
A North Dakota resident seals a self-administered COVID-19 saliva test sample at a testing site inside the former Thomas Edison Elementary School, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Moorhead, Minnesota, U.S., October 25, 2020.

  • The first known US case of a coronavirus variant from Brazil was reported in Minnesota on Monday.
  • The new strain P.1, is another mutation of SARS-CoV-2 to be detected in the US, alongside a strain originating from the UK. 
  • The patient had recent travel history to Brazil and developed symptoms during the first week of January.
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The first known case of a new, highly contagious coronavirus variant from Brazil was reported in Minnesota on Monday, according to state public health officials.

The mutated coronavirus strain from Brazil is another known variant to be detected in the US, alongside another strain that was first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7.

Another variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, has also been reported originating from South Africa, B1.351, but infections from the strain have not been reported in the US as of Monday.

“The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced that its Public Health Laboratory has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the Brazil P.1 variant in a specimen from a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to Brazil,” state health officials said in a statement Monday.

The person is a resident of the Twin Cities metro area, and started to develop symptoms during the first week of January, health officials said. A test sample from the patient was collected on January 9.

The infection from the Brazilian strain P.1 was detected through the health department’s “variant surveillance program,” in which the program collects 50 random samples from clinical laboratories and testing partners and tests the samples through whole-genome sequencing, according to the statement.

Read more: When the coronavirus runs rampant, mutations and new strains are more likely. That may be what happened in the UK.

“We’re thankful that our testing program helped us find this case, and we thank all Minnesotans who seek out testing when they feel sick or otherwise have reason to get a test,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a statement.

Scientists have been particularly concerned about the P.1 coronavirus strain after the rapid surge of infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus, The Washington Post reported.

Mutations of a virus can occur in areas where the original strain runs rampant, which may have been the case in the UK and Brazil. A study published in the research journal Science found that more than three-quarters of the population in Manaus had already been infected by the coronavirus, which should have put residents close to herd immunity from the virus.

“We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do,” Malcolm said. “That’s yet another reason why we want to limit COVID-19 transmission – the fewer people who get COVID-19, the fewer opportunities the virus has to evolve.”

“The good news is that we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate,” the Minnesota health commissioner continued.

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