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Bank robber says he'll represent himself if he can't get public defender

Edward Joseph Lowen

An accused bank robber said he likely would serve as his own attorney because he can't afford to hire one.

Edward Joseph Lowen, 53, a rural resident of Hubbard County, has been relatively quiet in the courtroom up until Monday, when he appeared for his scheduled omnibus hearing.

He had many concerns and questions for District Judge Paul Rasmussen.

"He is unrepresented at this time," said hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne. Rasmussen ordered Dearstyne to serve the discovery on the defendant Monday that an attorney would ordinarily get.

Lowen is accused of taking $2,525 at gunpoint from an Akeley branch bank Feb. 26.

He initially did not qualify for a public defender because of his income last year, estimated at $29,000, and his assets.

Lowen took issue with findings in a bail study report prepared by the Hubbard County Probation Department, which resulted in an increase in his bail amount two weeks ago.

He asked Judge Rasmussen twice if he could contest it and why he wasn't able to.

"I'm not going to leave this county," he said. "I own 10 acres of land valued at $100,000 to $130,000."

Lowen has repeatedly asked the court to allow him to go home on an electronic monitoring program.

He took issue with probation agent Joe Peterson's assessment that he might be a flight risk if released on bail because "he has no ties to the area."

"I have four kids and three grandkids," Lowen said, in addition to his property.

He also complained to Rasmussen that Dearstyne had served forfeiture papers on him to seize the Chevy Tahoe Lowen allegedly used in the heist,

He said he wished to contest that matter, too, especially some factual findings in that case.

"According to Mr. Dearstyne, I was in Crow Wing County on that day," Lowen asserted.

"I'm ill prepared to answer your questions," Rasmussen told him. The only matter before the judge Monday was the omnibus hearing, not the separate issues of bail and the civil forfeiture.

"The vehicle's already been seized," Lowen protested.

He said he'd reapplied for a public defender March 15, but despite asking jailers daily about the status of that application, "I've heard nothing about it."

Rasmussen postponed the omnibus hearing for two weeks to give Lowen a chance to review the discovery materials.

The judge urged him to have representation before the case proceeds further.

Discovery allows the defense "to assess the strengths and weaknesses" of the case and raise evidentiary issues, Rasmussen told Lowen.

"It would be helpful to have an attorney on board to explore those options," he told Lowen,

"I won't be hiring an attorney," Lowen responded. "I don't have the money to hire an attorney."

Rasmussen suggested Lowen respond to the petitions to raise bail and to seize the vehicle in writing, explaining his position and where his information differed from the state's. The judge said he would then review those issues, along with locating the second request for a court-appointed attorney.

The money from the robbery was never recovered although the criminal complaint states receipts for money orders were found during a search of Lowen's Becker Line Road home.

"What are my chances of getting my bail reduced?" Lowen asked the judge.

Rasmussen did not respond.

Lowen is being held on $50,000 conditional bail and $100,000 unconditional. Each amount was raised $25,000 after the bond report was completed.