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2017 Highlights

Message from the County Attorney

mike freeman

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.

Mike Freeman's signature

Mike Freeman
Hennepin County Attorney

Case highlights

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Bringing justice to crime victims.

Fourth Precinct shooting

4th Precinct shooting

Allen Scarsella was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of all 12 counts against him for shooting five African-American men at a demonstration at the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis. “The racist language Mr. Scarsella used in the videos and on social media is just not acceptable,” Mike Freeman said. “The actions he took as a result of those racist beliefs were heinous. The jury obviously saw it the same way.” Read more.

scarsella court

39 years in prison

A jury rejected Anthony Sawina’s claim that he was acting in self-defense when he shot five Somali men in Dinkytown. He was found guilty of all nine counts and sentenced to 39 years in prison. At his sentencing, Sawina lashed out about the stiff sentence handed down by the judge. As deputies moved in to take him away, he shouted “People are killing each other and they get less time. This is injustice at its finest and you know it.” Read more.

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Holding police accountable

Police officers must be held accountable for their actions, even when on the job. In October, we obtained a guilty verdict against officer Christopher Reiter for kicking a suspect in the face while the suspect was on his hands and knees. The outcome of this conviction is that Mr. Reiter will never be able to serve as a cop again. Three other police officers have been charged in three different crimes and their cases will move forward in 2018. Read more.


Combatting the opioid crisis

We’ve been charging drug dealers with third-degree murder when a person dies from an overdose since 2007. That year, just two cases were prosecuted. In 2016, the number jumped to five. This year, 12 people were charged and more than 160 opioid-related deaths were reported. In November, at our urging, the county board initiated a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies because we believe they misled doctors and the public about their pain killing opioid drugs. We'll be seeking millions of dollars in damages. Read more.

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Fighting sex trafficking

Ricky Turner pleaded guilty to running a major sex trafficking operation, involving 35 women, out of a guest house in Minnetonka. He will serve more than 20 years behind bars for crimes committed here as well as in Washington County. Our office is using this collaborative model to work across county lines and bring these perpetrators to justice. We have also dedicated a designated prosecutor to handle these cases and we provide sex workers with resources to help get them out of the business. Read more.

School bus

Improving school attendance

Our own be@school program, which focuses on early intervention in partnership with community agencies, has seen improvement in attendance as a result of delving deeper into why a child misses school. We found that some students with many absences came from loving homes, but had transportation problems getting to school. Another student might have fewer absences, but might be dealing with severe parental neglect at home and in need of additional services offered by child protection. Read more.

Serving residents

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The Hennepin County Attorney's Office is here to serve residents.

opened cases

Seeking justice

As the largest public law office in Minnesota, with 460 employees, we handle tens of thousands of adult felony, juvenile and civil cases each year. Our office is grouped into:


Advocating for victims and witnesses

In 2017, our advocates in the Victim Witness Division provided support and services to 35,049 individuals for cases moving through the criminal justice system.

More than 13,000 people contacted our Domestic Abuse Service Center for help as a result of domestic violence experienced personally or by a family member or friend.

1,029 cases of a gun used or allegedly possessed

Combating gun violence

Our office handled 1,029 criminal cases in which a gun was used or allegedly possessed. We are working to combat gun violence by charging felons who are found to be in possession of a firearm, which is against the law. We prosecute these perpetrators and seek the highest possible sentence.

538 adult and 2,045 juvenile charges

Diverting cases

We recognize that public safety may best be served by diverting first-time offenders from the criminal justice system. Our adult and juvenile diversion programs refer eligible individuals to social services, chemical dependency or mental health resources.

Contact us

Hennepin County Attorney
C-2000 Government Center
300 South Sixth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55487

Phone: 612-348-5550
Email: citizeninfo@hennepin.us


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