Community Calls on Minnesota Governor and AG to ‘Stay Out of Hennepin County Prosecutions’

Minneapolis, MN – Police associations and pro-police members of Congress are pressuring Minnesota’s governor to wrest prosecuting power away from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty over her decision to charge State Trooper Ryan Londregan with murder for the July 2023 fatal shooting of Ricky Cobb II. Minneapolis community groups and leaders have since crafted statements and an op-ed, published below, in support of Moriarty, formerly a public defender whom residents elected in 2022 after her campaign focused on police accountability.

The January announcement of charges by Moriarty was quickly criticized by Londregan’s defense, pro-police spokespeople and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) – all of whom used social platforms and the corporate media to throw dirt on Moriarty’s name and even spread false claims of grand jury tampering. 

Murder Charges Filed on Trooper Who Fatally Shot Ricky Cobb II – January 28, 2024

Since the killing of Cobb II, a Black motorist, during an early morning traffic stop in July 2023, MPPOA has called Londregan, a white Trooper, a “hero.”

On March 15, the MPPOA sent a letter to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz urging him to use his powers to take Moriarty off the Londregan case and dismiss his murder charges. This came days after Londregan’s defense filed a 53-page memorandum of law in opposition to the state’s motion to quash a subpoena to Jeffrey Noble, a use-of-force expert. 

Ricky Cobb II (left) and Ryan Londregan (right)

Noble was also used for the investigation into the February 2023 police killing of Yia Xiong. His report was cited in a March 20 joint announcement by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi that no officers would be charged in Xiong’s death.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN CD8) called for Moriarty to resign this week, posting that she “clearly has an anti-cop agenda.” On March 20, Stauber along with Minnesota’s other GOP members of Congress, Michelle Fischbach (R-MN CD7), Tom Emmer (R-MN CD6), and Brad Finstad (R-MN CD1) wrote a letter to Gov. Walz, claiming “Moriarty has weaponized her position against law enforcement” and expressing their “outrage at the ongoing prosecution of State Trooper Ryan Londregan, and the continued attack on law enforcement officers.” None of the Republican representatives who wrote the letter live in the Twin Cities. U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (DFL-MN CD2) also released a statement on March 20 calling for Walz to intervene.

Responding to the uptick in pressure on the Governor and constant news reports buttressing the police narrative, a media release sent by a slew of Twin Cities organizations demanded that the “near-constant attacks on Mary Moriarty” stop — calling the reports “political” and “not legitimate criticisms.” 

The March 20 release by the community organizations stated recent interventions in Hennepin County’s prosecutorial decisions by Governor Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison “undermine[d] the autonomy and efforts of County Attorney Mary Moriarty, especially in relation to holding law enforcement accountable for misconduct.” Last Summer, after heavy pressure from law enforcement advocates, Walz and Ellison took over the prosecution on one of Moriarty’s cases. Moriarty said then that their moves would set “a dangerous precedent.”  

The community release was sent by CAIR-Minnesota, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), Racial Justice Network (RJN), Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, Dante Wright and Kobe Heisler No More Names Initiative, Dr. Raj Sethuraju, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC-TC), Black Lives Matter-Twin Cities Metro, Black Lives Matter-Minnesota and featured quotes from Michelle Gross of CUAPB, Nekima Levy Armstrong of RJN, and Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN, read below:

“Mary has been a staunch ally in our fight for justice, especially for families shattered by police violence. Her work holding law enforcement accountable is invaluable. It’s imperative that she be allowed to continue without state interference that would undermine the progress made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.” – Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) President Michelle Gross

“The justice system’s integrity and the quest for justice, especially for victims’ families, rely heavily on the autonomy of prosecutorial decisions. Interventions by Attorney General Ellison and Governor Walz threaten this autonomy and hint at a return to practices that prevent accountability. We appreciate Mary’s efforts and stand with her in ensuring justice prevails.” – Nekima Levy-Armstrong, President of the Racial Justice Network

“In a time when trust between communities and law enforcement is fragile, the work of individuals like Mary Moriarty in championing accountability and justice is crucial. The state’s interference undermines this work and jeopardizes the healing and progress made so far. We must support Mary’s commitment to justice and resist any steps back.” – Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of CAIR-Minnesota

One of the signatories of the community press release, Dr. Raj Sethuraju, penned his own op-ed “to support our Black and brown bodies that are often hurt and harmed by law enforcement and other judicial systems” and “call on the governor not to crumble under the pressure of conservative voices.” Read his opinion below:

The following is a commentary from Dr. Raj Sethuraju. The views and opinions expressed don’t necessarily represent those of Unicorn Riot.

Governor, Please Stop Exercising Your Power

In 2022, the people of Hennepin County elected Mary Moriarty as County Attorney, with nearly 60% of the vote. She campaigned on a platform centered around implementing public health solutions to crime, and of particular salience, demanding accountability from police. This group has historically evaded accountability when it involves the use of violence against black and brown citizens. From Lloyd Smalley and Lillian Weiss to Jamar Clark, and most recently, George Floyd, Minneapolis, has an egregiously long history of police violence against black citizens. Prosecutors only brought charges against Floyd’s killer, and that might not have happened without the brave acts of Darnella Frazier, Floyd’s family, and the greater community of activists.

Each time a prosecutor declined to bring a charge, they based that decision on the idea that police acted reasonably, a conclusion premised upon the myth that it is always reasonable to be fearful of black and brown citizens, and accordingly, police should not be held accountable when inflicting violence upon said citizens. Moriarty is now attempting to correct this sordid history of inaction through the prosecution of officers responsible for Ricky Cobb’s death and the Minneapolis Police Union and Peace Officers Association (hereinafter “MPPOA”) is fighting back.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the MPPOA is trying to have County Attorney Moriarty removed from the case. In a letter directed to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, MPPOA demanded that he hand over the case to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office – for only the second time ever, in a case that also involved County Attorney Moriarty and her attempt to keep a child in the juvenile system.

If the Governor agrees, he will set a dangerous, undemocratic precedent. He will silence the votes and voices of predominantly black and progressive individuals anytime the police union disagrees with a charging decision. Such a setup would ultimately render Moriarty, the elected The County Attorney was powerless to implement the very policies that voters supported. There is something unethical and immoral about changing the rules mid-game merely to suit the interests of a group that is finally being held accountable to the citizens who pay their salaries. We should take MPPOA’s letter at face value, as it reveals a group that believes it should be immune from the same standards that apply to everyone else who goes through the legal system.

Imagine a regular citizen demanding that the Governor remove their case from Moriarty’s office simply because he/she believes the system does not favor them. No such relief has ever been made available to black Minnesotans. The MPPOA is used to operating on an uneven playing field that has privileged its members; now that Moriarty is attempting to even say that the playing field is unfair, the MPPOA claims it is unfair.

Predictably, MPPOA’s letter attempts to publicly try Mr. Cobb, describing him as a felon who was at fault for attempting to remove himself from a situation where armed officers were willing and ready to use deadly force. In sum, the letter follows the tried and true playbook of implying that the victim of police violence must always be at fault; there is no need to do a deep dive; we must always defer to the actions of the police. Now that Moriarty is not following this playbook, the Police Department’s letter implies that its officers are not receiving a fair and honest evaluation.

Worse, and demonstrating a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, the MPPOA goes on to argue that Mary’s office and her efforts to reform a broken carceral system and hold police accountable, is to blame for the drop in MPD membership. Could it be that Minnesotans no longer have an interest in joining a force that attempted to cover up the murder of George Floyd, initially describing it as a “medical incident” with no mention of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes? Could it be that the Department of Justice’s findings that MPD officers routinely use reckless force against citizens who criticize or question them, face little or no accountability for allegations of wrongdoing, and patrol the streets with deficient and inadequate training may have discouraged potential applicants.

Even if they are correct, let’s be clear: Moriarty is not a servant of the MPPOA; her obligation is to the people of Hennepin County. The prosecution of Mr. Cobb’s killers is a necessary step towards creating a safer Minneapolis, where all citizens can have interactions with police that are not permeated by fear and anxiety. Allowing the Governor to remove Mr. Cobb’s case from her purview will hinder the progress that Minneapolis needs and deserves and allow for parties with a vested interest in the status quo to betray the democratic process that put her in office.

The police are not above the law, and they are meant to be our servants, not our masters, still less our torturers or murderers. We can not afford to look away and ignore this situation. If the MPPOA is allowed to succeed, and it will reverse the efforts Moriarty is making to create a safer Hennepin County is a Hennepin County where the voices of the people are prioritized over the privileges enjoyed by a single, taxpayer-funded group.

Cover image composition by Dan Feidt. Photos by Unicorn Riot, Fibonacci Blue [Craig], Gage Skidmore [Stauber], USGLC [Emmer], under Creative Commons; MNSRC [Fischbach], and U.S. Rep. Brad Finstead.

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