In 2017, we successfully prosecuted two cases against racists: A jury found Allen Scarsella guilty of shooting and wounding five men who were peacefully protesting outside the 4th Precinct police station and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In a separate case, Anthony Sawina was also found guilty and was sentenced to 39 years in prison for shooting at five
young Muslim men in a car in Dinkytown.
As shown in these cases and so many others, gun violence continues to be a serious problem and innocent people often end up being the victims in these senseless crimes. Our office is working to combat them by charging felons who are found to be in possession of a gun, which is against the law. We prosecute these cases and seek the highest possible sentences.
With regard to the opioid crisis, I have joined other county attorneys and county commissioners from Ramsey and Washington counties in taking the bold step of filing civil lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs. Our office also continues to vigorously prosecute drug dealers and we are working to raise awareness and educate the public about the highly addictive nature of opioids as a way to prevent addiction.
We must charge cases without fear or favor. In October, we obtained a guilty verdict against Minneapolis Police Officer Christopher Reiter for kicking a suspect in the face while the suspect was on his hands and knees.
As for the investigation into the fatal shooting of Justine Damond Ruszczyk by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, a dedicated team in our office has been diligently working on this case. Our goal was to complete the review and make a decision on whether or not to bring charges by the end of 2017, but we are getting more information and evidence, and additional investigation must be completed. As I have stated, the investigation and review of the case will not be rushed. It is more important to get it right than to get it done quickly.
Finally, I was honored to be elected to a one-year term as president of the National District Attorneys Association. This allows me to learn from other jurisdictions and gives me the chance to share some of our best practices with others across the nation.
Hennepin County Attorney
Download the full 2017 highlights (PDF)