My 1st priority is restoring effectiveness to the County Attorney’s office. Using my experience in the HCAO and managing an office of prosecutors, I will rebuild trust with our justice partners outside the office and most importantly the attorneys in the office.
My 2nd priority is addressing gun violence in our communities. I live in North Minneapolis and over the past 2 years, there have been 95 homicides in my community. Not only will we swiftly prosecute gun crimes but my office will create a task force to address this issue immediately.
My 3rd priority will be rehabilitating low-level offenders. With the proper resources, we can get people who need support into treatment and help them re-enter society productively.
I have spent my entire professional career prosecuting violent crimes and promoting public safety. In the late 90s, I worked as the North MPLS community prosecutor in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. Following that, I worked as Susan Segal’s Deputy Minneapolis City Attorney and managed over 60 prosecutors and support staff. Then in 2012, Governor Mark Dayton appointed me to the bench where I served as a serious crimes Judge until December of 2021 when I retired to run for this office.
My biggest challenge will be running an effective office. Quite frankly, we have record caseloads and an office with low morale. If you can’t get the core responsibilities of the office fulfilled, we aren’t going to be able to start to work on the changes we want to make. My approach is more practical than political. I am the only candidate with experience running an office of prosecutors and will implement the techniques I used to run that office effectively.
I have experienced and observed unequal treatment due to race all my life. It’s unacceptable. The largest area of discrepancy in Hennepin County is drug-related cases. Decriminalizing drug use and placing addicts into treatment is a more successful approach than incarceration.
Also, I plan on hiring and retaining more prosecutors from communities of color. Hiring alone isn’t enough, we need to help create an environment where people with non-traditional backgrounds like my own can succeed.
As Hennepin County Attorney I am committed to increasing transparency through community engagement. It’s incredibly important that the community knows who we are and that we are working for them. We are the community’s attorney. My office will also be completely transparent on charging decisions without caving to political pressure. We won’t let activists, politicians, or police officers tell us how we should charge our cases because we are the experts tasked with making these decisions.
My top priority will always be to keep everyone safe. I will focus our resources on the prosecution of violent crimes, support law enforcement in their efforts to investigate them, and support our prosecutors as they pursue these cases in a data-driven way to bring outcomes that make our communities safer and more just.
We also need to address the root causes of violence and break these cycles before they repeat. I will work with other elected officials to build successful community safety and violence prevention strategies. I'm proud to have the endorsement of the Minnesota DFL Party, Moms Demand Action, AG Keith Ellison, and over 40 state legislators, mayors, city council members, and school board members across Hennepin County.
I have over 30 years of experience in Hennepin County’s criminal legal system. During my six years as the county’s Chief Public Defender, leading the second largest public law office in the state, an independent evaluation recognized it as one of the most effective and highly regarded in the entire country. I have taught new prosecutors at the U of M and at Harvard, exposed racially biased marijuana stings in downtown Minneapolis, and had a case argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court.
We need to overcome a lack of trust in the office due to a lack of effectiveness in past crime prevention and intervention strategies, and deep racial disparities in our system. Many people in the County do not feel safe right now, and many more have been disproportionately impacted by the system. We need to avoid the mistakes of the past, and I plan to address this challenge by implementing research-backed, data-driven policies that keep everyone safe without exacerbating inequity.
I will collect data on racial disparities in every part of the criminal legal system, including the juvenile and child protection systems to examine each decision point and work to eliminate disparities through culturally-competent decision making.
I will also work to assist and ease the expungements of unjust arrests, charges, and convictions for low-level offenses like marijuana possession that disproportionately affect people of color.
The HCAO is the largest public law office in the state. From my experience, I know that transparency and accountability for all – including myself – are key. There will be some changes to the office and I will be clear about them. But, differences of opinion will be embraced. There is a wealth of knowledge in the office and those perspectives are critical as we work towards a more effective approach to public safety.