Criminal Justice

At-Trial Minn. Lawyer is Investigated & Charged in Courthouse Cocaine Case

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A Minnesota attorney’s courthouse behavior yesterday in the midst of a client’s trial in a terroristic threats case reportedly led to an immediate investigation and the lawyer’s arrest on felony drug charges.

Defense attorney Charles Alan Ramsay, 41, was jailed overnight before posting $10,000 bail today. His arrest yesterday on three cocaine-possession charges by the Winona County Sheriff’s office resulted from an on-the-spot investigation after a Winona police investigator witnessed suspicious behavior on Ramsay’s part as he exited a courthouse men’s room during a hearing recess, according to the the Winona Daily News and Duluth News Tribune (reg. req.).

Ramsay allegedly had been touching his nose with his hand in a manner that suggested drug use, according to police, and an evidence technician sent into a conference room that he had been using discovered a trace amount of cocaine on the table there, according to the newspaper accounts. Police then called the Winona County Attorney’s Office, which in turn called the sheriff’s office, which has jurisdiction over the courthouse. Police said a drug-sniffing dog was alerted to Ramsay’s briefcase, and a search warrant was executed and cocaine was found in his briefcase, authorities say.

Ramsay’s client, Jack Willis Nissalke, was in court yesterday to proceed with a plea bargain in the midst of his trial on terroristic threat charges related to a May DNA police evidence-gathering effort, according to the two newspapers and an Associated Press coverage roundup. Nissalke’s DNA was being sought in May concerning an ongoing murder case in which Ramsay also represents him.

“According to the criminal complaint, a Winona police investigator who was testifying” in the case “saw Ramsay leave a courthouse bathroom about 1:20 p.m. Thursday during a court recess. The investigator, Jay Rasmussen, said he didn’t hear the bathroom flush and that Ramsay was sniffing profusely and using his right thumb and index finger to pinch his nose repeatedly. He also saw the attorney wipe underneath his nose several times,” writes the Duluth News Tribune.

Ramsay reportedly also had drawn attention to himself earlier, and was scolded by the judge for making an overly dramatic opening statement that she said “freaked out” the jury, the AP writes.

It’s not immediately clear what difference Ramsay’s arrest will make, if any, in his defense of his client. According to news reports, it appears that he was arrested shortly after a hearing ended in which he had entered a guilty plea on Nissalke’s behalf in the terrorist threats case.

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