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June 22, 2018


OUR MISSION

We serve justice and public safety through our commitment to ethical prosecution, crime prevention, and through innovative and reasoned client representation.


Dear Friends,

It has been my practice over the years to report developments in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and this letter will recap major events so far this year.

The Minnesota Legislature adjourned a month ago after a tumultuous session that saw many of the bills crammed into two mega-bills and then they died when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed them.

Some other bills were passed and signed into law earlier in the session and one of those involved protecting the public from sex offenders.  In January, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision that seemed likely to immediately release a number of sex offenders civilly committed as mentally ill and dangerous or sexually dangerous.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, working closely with the Minnesota County Attorney’s Association, convinced the legislature to pass a law that clarified the language that the court objected to in its ruling. As a result, the sex offenders will now be held until the psychiatrists and the courts agree they have successfully completed treatment and can be eased back into the community.

In March, I announced a third-degree murder charge against Officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Damond Ruszczyk last July.  I also charged the officer with second-degree manslaughter because, along with my team of three veteran prosecutors, we determined that Officer Noor’s conduct in shooting Ms. Ruszczyk was not justified.  The next court hearing is scheduled for September.

Our attorneys in the civil division spend their days protecting taxpayer dollars by defending the various Hennepin County departments and the county board. Civil Division Managing Attorney Dan Rogan argued very well before the U.S. Supreme Court defending a nearly 100-year-old Minnesota law that prohibits the wearing of buttons, clothes or other items with a political message inside the polling area. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that they agreed that polling area of a building is a nonpublic space and so laws are appropriate for regulating what can be worn. However, the justices ruled that the Minnesota law was too broadly written and therefore violated the First Amendment.

Mr. Rogan returned to Washington, D.C. to argue on behalf of the county board that a move by the Trump Administration to end federal grants to a county program designed to reduce the rate of teen pregnancies, was illegal. The federal judge, seeing similar suits from other counties, states and nonprofits, ordered the federal government to continue processing those grants and added Hennepin County to an 80-group class action suit. That suit will ultimately decide if the Trump administration order was legal.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office continues to be an innovator in keeping our youth out of the juvenile justice system. Since 2007, we have worked with schools throughout the county to not send us minor incidents of pushing and shoving or damage to property. Instead, the schools should handle that discipline themselves and send us only the most serious offenses. The result is that the number of cases sent from the schools for prosecution dropped 71 percent from 2,513 to 728.

For those juveniles who commit crimes outside of school, we have been diverting as many of the minor incidents as we can. Our associates at Headway Diversion interview the youth and together they put together a plan that could include apologies, community service and/or restitution, but keeps their record clean. In 2017, we diverted one-third of the cases sent to us: 2,045 out of 6,072.

Of course, we also have been charging and convicting people who are a danger to society.

  • Beth Freeman pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide for driving under the influence of drugs when she tragically struck and killed Wayzata Police Officer William Mathews on U.S. 12 last year. She was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.
  • Delorien Chatman was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for a downtown Minneapolis shooting in August. Chatman was in a fistfight, was knocked down, pulled a gun and fired, hitting an innocent bystander.
  • Marcus Hallmark was found guilty of first-degree murder for fatally shooting another man at a Minnetonka Park and Ride. He was sentenced to life in prison.
  • Minneapolis Police Officer Thomas Tichich was sentenced to four years in prison after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. He was fired from the department.

I am honored to serve as your county attorney, and with our fine staff, continue to seek justice every day. I hope you have a wonderful summer.

 

mike signature

Michael O. Freeman

Hennepin County Attorney


CONTACT INFO

Michael O. Freeman
Hennepin County Attorney

300 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis, MN 55487
612-348-5550 - citizeninfo@hennepin.us