A plea hearing has been set in the case of Eric James Reinbold, a former Pennington County Jail inmate accused of assaulting two corrections officers and attempting to escape from custody in June 2022. At the time of the alleged assaults, Reinbold was in custody while awaiting the resolution of a murder case for which he was ultimately convicted.
Reinbold, 46, formerly of Oklee, faces charges of felony offenses of first-degree assault, attempted escape from custody, and fourth-degree assault. The plea hearing has been set for Friday, Sept. 1. Attorneys indicated that Reinbold may also be sentenced at that time. No plea agreement has been signed or filed. In the event Reinbold pleads guilty and is sentenced for the alleged assaults, it is unclear whether the sentence would be concurrent with or consecutive to his current sentence of 480 months in prison.
On Tuesday, Aug. 1, a pre-trial hearing was held in Pennington County District Court via Zoom. Reinbold’s attorney, Chris Cadem, told Judge Tamara Yon that an offer had been made and he wanted clarification on potential sentencing. He requested time to speak in a Zoom breakout session with prosecutors, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General John Gross and Pennington County Attorney Seamus Duffy, about the offer. After meeting with the other attorneys, Cadem requested more time to be able to discuss the offer with Reinbold, who remains incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rush City. He is serving a 480-month sentence for the murder of his wife, Lissette, in 2021. Prior to being arrested in that case, Reinbold was on the lam for 26 days until he was arrested on a vacant farmstead in rural Oklee.
The latest charges stemmed from the alleged assaults of two Pennington County corrections officers on June 4, 2022. During the murder trial three months later, the two corrections officers testified about the alleged assaults. Two videos showing different angles of the alleged assaults and attempted escape were also played. Neither video contained sound.
On that day, then-corrections officer Katy Rolland was disbursing medications to inmates at about 9:23 p.m. In the video, Reinbold could be seen exiting his cell pod to obtain over-the-counter medication from Rolland. With no verbal warning and armed with a white colored pencil, he allegedly approached and grabbed for Rolland, who was looking down at a medication scanner. Rolland backed up, falling in an attempt to get away from him. He then grabbed her by the hair and dragged her. At some point during the incident, Rolland’s glasses fell off of her.
Rolland’s coworker Alex Yorba could be seen placing his body between the two of them.
Reinbold allegedly placed the colored pencil to different areas on Yorba’s neck. He testified that he thought Reinbold was possibly going to kill him. While threatening Yorba with the pencil, he told Yorba to open the door. Since Yorba wasn’t complying, Reinbold ripped Yorba’s badge off of his chest in an attempt to use it to open a door.
Another corrections officer, Briana Vosen, intervened. Yorba testified that Vosen deployed a Taser three times. The first time, the two probes landed on Reinbold. However, they didn’t attach appropriately to Reinbold since he was wearing three shirts and a sweater. Yorba, who is no longer employed as a corrections officer here, said the Taser slowed Reinbold down.
Yorba testified that Reinbold was on top of him when Vosen deployed the Taser a second time. Yorba couldn’t remember if it affected Reinbold.
The third deployment was effective at subduing Reinbold, who then began complying with instructions. Sometime later, two Thief River Falls police officers could be seen escorting Reinbold to another part of the jail. Yorba, who suffered from sciatica at the time, could be seen grabbing his lower back after the incident.
Less than a month ago, Yon granted a state motion seeking to impeach Reinbold with his prior convictions if the assault and escape case moved forward to trial. One conviction involved a 2015 charge of second degree assault involving his wife and two children in which Reinbold blocked his wife and two children’s exit from their property while he was armed with a handgun. The other conviction was a 2018 federal conviction for possession of unregistered destructive devices. In 2017, pipe bombs were found on the property of Reinbold’s family. The other conviction was the murder conviction.
Yon also granted the state the ability to present evidence of the underlying circumstances of his convictions in the 2015 case and underlying circumstances of the 2021 murder case. The state sought to present such evidence to show motive, intent and knowledge, according to online court documents. Yon wrote that the evidence “proffered by the state will be prejudicial to [Reinbold]. However, the court finds that the risk of unfair prejudice to [Reinbold] is outweighed by the high probative value of the evidence with regard to motive, knowledge and intent as well as to rebut potential defenses and to cross-examine any defense witnesses.” She wrote that the risk of unfair prejudice to Reinbold could be buffered by a cautionary court instruction to jurors when the evidence is offered and during final jury instructions.
Yon denied two defense motions seeking to dismiss the felony first-degree assault charge for lack of specificity and lack of probable cause, respectively.
Reinbold has appealed his conviction for second-degree murder in the 2021 murder of his wife, Lissette. A Pennington County jury convicted him in September 2022. He was sentenced to 480 months in prison for that case.
The appeal has been stayed since Cadem has sought to remand the matter to the district court for postconviction proceedings. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has given Cadem until Monday, Sept. 11 to file a petition for postconviction relief or another appropriate motion in district court, or a motion in the Court of Appeals to reinstate the appeal. In court records, it was noted that Cadem planned to “investigate and develop a record on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and a discovery violation, among other possible issues.” Prior to sentencing in the murder case, Reinbold was represented by attorney Bruce Rivers.