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The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed the sentence of the Stearns County man who repeatedly harassed a Cold Spring family because of race and crashed an SUV into their home.

Benton L. Beyer, who lived in Cold Spring and Richmond during the months of harassment, was charged with 11 counts following the July 2021 incident. A jury found Beyer, who is white, guilty of seven of the counts in September 2022.

The jury also found the stalking and assault charges had aggravating factors because they were motivated by racial bias, which can increase the maximum sentence for the crimes. In November 2022, Stearns County Judge Andrew Pearson sentenced Beyer, now 35, to almost nine years in prison.

"You devastated a family," Pearson said during the sentencing, at which three members of the family spoke about how the attack shattered their sense of safety and left them riddled with depression and anxiety.

Court documents state the family of Andrea Robinson was targeted by Beyer because her husband, Phil, and some of their children are Black. Documents say Beyer started targeting the family after his girlfriend admitted to cheating on him with a biracial coworker and later worked at a group home on the same block as the Robinson's.

The Robinsons had no relationship to Beyer except that Beyer mistakenly believed his girlfriend cheated on him with an adult son of the family. Beginning in May 2021, the Robinsons started experiencing acts of vandalism at their home and security cameras showed Beyer driving by the home multiple times.

During one incident, Phil Robinson confronted Beyer and asked why he kept driving by, after which, Beyer called 911 and falsely accused Phil Robinson of threatening him with a large knife.

Then, after Beyer's girlfriend moved to California, Beyer continued to harass her with text messages that included racial epithets. Documents state Beyer sent her a text that said, "I know what I'm thinking about doing" about 20 minutes before he left his apartment to steal an SUV and crash it into the Robinson's house.

No one was injured but children were asleep on the couch a few feet away from where the car rammed into the front of the house.

"You robbed my family of everything we've ever had," said Robinson's daughter, Olivia Williams, at the sentencing. "I still replay the sound of the truck you drove crashing into my house every day."

Beyer appealed the sentence in February, arguing the enhanced sentence must be reduced because the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the assaults were committed because of racial bias. A three-member panel of judges met in November and issued the opinion Monday, which was written by Judge Susan Segal, that affirms the district court's sentence.

The opinion says the appeals court evaluated the sufficiency of the evidence by independently examining "the reasonableness of the inferences the jury could draw from those circumstances." The panel found Beyer repeatedly displayed animus towards Black people, repeatedly made comments using racial epithets, and made multiple statements indicating he thought his girlfriend cheated on him with someone in the Robinson family.

The panel found the facts of the case "support the rational inference that Beyer committed the assaults 'because of' the family's race or color. The only reason for Beyer's mistaken belief that [Robinson's] adult son was the male with whom [his girlfriend] 'cheated' is the son's race."

The opinion continues, "While we agree that merely making racist comments is not enough to satisfy the state's burden of proof, the evidence here ties Beyer's racialized comments directly to this family."

Andrea Robinson said Tuesday the court's affirmation of the sentence validates the impacts of what her family experienced: "We finally have a sense of closure, which is necessary in moving forward and continuing to heal."