By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 32-year-old Minneapolis man accused of taking a hostage in the Town of Sherman and stealing his car at knifepoint in April of 2012 has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Jonlee Goers appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court May 31 for a sentencing hearing before the Honorable Rod Smeltzer.
Goers pleaded no-contest on March 15, and Judge Smeltzer found him guilty on the amended charges of three felony counts of false imprisonment, possession of methamphetamine and taking and driving a vehicle without consent.
“This was a very serious series of crimes,” said Dunn County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Maki, noting that before Goers took Steffen Demeter hostage and ordered Demeter to drive Goers to the Twin Cities in Demeter’s car, he had been involved in a high-speed chase from Minnesota, through St. Croix County and into Dunn County.
Goers originally was charged with five felonies: armed robbery, false imprisonment, operating a vehicle without consent and possessing a weapon, taking hostages, and taking and driving a vehicle without consent.
In middle school, Goers was considered gifted and talented in math and science, but at age 13, he started using drugs, and at age 22, he started using methamphetamine, Maki said.
Goers’ attorney, Stephen Muza, said that while Goers never intended to hurt Demeter, “he realizes he just about scared him to death.”
Instead of prison time, Muza pleaded with the court to sentence Goers to another year in the county jail, and that he be allowed either in-patient or out-patient treatment for his meth addiction, and that when he had finished treatment, he be allowed work-release privileges so he could begin to pay fines, restitution and child support.
Although Demeter chose not to be in court for Goers’ sentencing hearing, Goers said he had hoped Demeter would be there so he could apologize to him in person.
“I would like to apologize first and foremost to Mr. Demeter … I am forever in debt to him and would like to say I’m sorry,” Goers said.
Goers went on to say that he realizes he has made bad choices because of drugs and that he has harmed his family and his community because of his drug addiction.
“I would like to try to stop that,” he said.
A number of Goers’ family members were in the courtroom, and Judge Smeltzer said that Goers’ actions had left his family “heartbroken.”
“I think meth is even more selfish than alcohol,” Judge Smeltzer said, describing methamphetamine as a “scourge on the land.”
“I want you to figure out how to respect yourself,” he said.
Goers went across a state line, county lines and into someone’s house and “scared the bejesus out of that person,” Judge Smeltzer said.
“Meth is the devil in disguise,” he said.
Judge Smeltzer noted that he had gone back to school at age 30 and again at age 36, and that because of Goers’ intelligence, “I would like to see you go back to school at some point.”
Judge Smeltzer sentenced Goers to five years in prison for false imprisonment, with two years of initial confinement and three years of extended supervision, to two years in prison for possession of methamphetamine with one year of initial confinement and one year of extended supervision and to two years in prison for stealing Demeter’s car, with one year of initial confinement and one year of extended supervision.
Judge Smeltzer ordered that Goers be given credit for 399 days in the Dunn County Jail and that the sentence for possession of meth be consecutive to the prison term for false imprisonment and that the sentence for stealing the car be concurrent.
All together, Goers will actually serve about two years in prison and will be on probation for four years.
During a preliminary hearing last May, Demeter testified that he had been looking for his cat to bring it in the house for the night when he saw a man later identified as Goers standing on the steps of his Town of Sherman home.
When Demeter asked if he could help him with something, Demeter testified that Goers said he got locked out of his cabin and asked to use Demeter’s bathroom.
Goers ordered Demeter at knifepoint to drive him to the Twin Cities in Demeter’s car and later on told Demeter that the other car was out of gasoline.
Demeter convinced Goers they should buy gas for Goers’ car “so we can get you on your way” and pulled into the Kwik Trip off Exit 28 on Interstate-94.
Demeter testified that when he pulled up to the gas pumps, Goers “freaked” and said, “I can’t be here” and “get back on the highway.”
Because it was a Friday night, the Kwik Trip was busy, Demeter said, and so was Highway 128.
As Demeter was waiting for traffic so he could pull out onto the highway, he decided to bail out of the car and make a run for it and ran back to the Kwik Trip parking lot.
After a high-speed chase, Goers eventually was apprehended in Pierce County, and Demeter’s car was recovered from a corn field.
According to the criminal complaint, the car that Goers had been driving had been stolen from the Twin Cities area, and the license plates on the car had been stolen from the Superior area.
In addition to prison time and probation, Judge Smeltzer ordered Goers to pay court costs of $268 for each count and to pay $1,350 in restitution for the cost of repairing Demeter’s car.