- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources worker was sentenced to two years of probation Monday for allegedly looking up private driver’s license data on thousands of people without permission.

John Hunt, 49, entered an Alford plea in February in Ramsey County to misconduct of a public officer, unauthorized computer access and unlawful use of private data. Hunt’s plea means he maintains his innocence but concedes there is likely enough evidence to convict him. Hunt, of Woodbury, originally was charged with eight counts, all misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors.

If Hunt successfully completes probation, the convictions will be dismissed, the Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1kZ3cEZ ). Hunt’s criminal record will display the charges unless he takes further action to have them expunged, said his attorney, Fred Bruno.

“He’s handling it well,” Bruno said of Hunt. “This has not been easy. This is the right result.”

Assistant Duluth City Attorney Cary Schmies, who prosecuted the case for the city of St. Paul, said the sentencing was appropriate because there was no public safety risk. Hunt also abided by two conditions: He agreed not to seek his job back and to having his computer purged of data.

“In this case, I think it’s a fair outcome,” Schmies said.

Judge Leonardo Castro ordered Hunt to pay $1,000, undergo mental health therapy and obey the law. He also ordered Hunt to serve one day in jail and gave him credit for showing up at the county jail to be photographed and fingerprinted. Hunt was processed at the jail and did not serve a day in a cell, but it’s common for such processing to be credited as a day in jail, Schmies said.

Hunt declined to speak when given a chance to address the court before his sentencing due to pending civil litigation in the case.

Hunt, a former manager in the DNR’s enforcement division, was charged with making about 19,000 unauthorized searches of driver’s license data over five years. Prosecutors said most of the people he looked up were women, ranging from police officers to local celebrities and politicians.

Prosecutors said that was far more than his job, which included performing background checks using the data, required. The data Hunt had access to included photos, addresses and physical information about drivers.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com