1 takes plea deal after ‘joy ride’ leads to felony

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One of two men charged with taking a red 2005 Lincoln for a short joy ride in May to get back at the car’s owner took a plea agreement in Mower County District Court Tuesday.

Semaj Maurice Dow, Jr., 19, of Minneapolis pleaded guilty as part of the agreement to felony theft for taking a vehicle without consent, while a gross misdemeanor theft charge was dismissed.

Melvin Cole, 20, of Albert Lea, previously pleaded not guilty to the same charges, but he also appeared in court Tuesday and is next scheduled for a plea hearing on Dec. 12.

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At about 10:44 p.m. on May 15, an Austin police officer responded to the stolen vehicle report on the 1900 block of Sixth Avenue Northwest. Upon arrival, another officer saw the car, driving north on Eighth Street Northwest and was stopped near the intersection of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue Northwest, according to court records.

Dow, the driver, and Cole, the passenger, were allegedly in the vehicle. The victim was brought to the scene of the traffic stop and told officers he was talking to a friend at his house and saw lights by his car. When he looked out again, the car was gone. The keys were in the ignition and the vehicle was unlocked.

Six items were missing from the car, including: a Sector 9 longboard, valued at $250; an Arbor longboard, valued at $475; a cell phone, valued at $100; a red backpack containing dog food; and speaker wire and fuses.

Officers spoke with Dow, who said, “I was driving it, but I didn’t steal it,” according to court records.

He told officers he knew the victim and had been in an argument with him before the Lincoln was taken.

Dow added he “just drove around town on a joy ride” and was going to return it. He also said the victim gave him permission to drive it.

Cole told officers the victim took items from the apartment of an acquaintance, which angered Cole. Since the victim wouldn’t talk about that incident, Cole and Dow took the Lincoln.

Cole told officers the Lincoln was open and that they “just went around the block,” and Dow drove the entire time. Cole and Dow were arrested and transported to Mower County Jail.

The front passenger window was smashed out, and officers believe a screwdriver found in the car was used to break it. The victim said the window was not broken before the Lincoln was stolen.

Cole initially denied they removed any property from the Lincoln, but then said they put all of the property in the trunk of a friend’s vehicle. Officers later recovered all the property except a cell phone.

The friend told police he or she did not know about the items in the trunk.