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Relatives of Minneapolis crime victims are demanding that the new district attorney change her approach, after the killers of their loved ones were given what they think are excessively lenient punishments.
Mary Moriarty, 59, became the Hennepin County in January this year, after 30 years as a public defender.
Her campaign website described her as ‘a fierce advocate for fighting systemic injustices’, who ‘put a spotlight on racial biases in the criminal legal system.’
In her nine months in office, she has angered victims’ relatives with her recommendations for sentencing – even clashing with the liberal Soros-backed attorney general for Minnesota, Keith Ellison.
In her first week, she sparked outrage by dropping charges against a 35-year-old man accused of raping a 14-year-old girl, due to a technicality. He cannot be retried for the same crime, CBS News reported.
Moriarty said she was ‘deeply remorseful and apologetic’ to the child, who endured grueling testimony before the case was dismissed.
Mary Moriarty took over as Hennepin County attorney in January, and has come under fire for her approach to prosecutions
Moriarty, a 30-year veteran public defender, has defended her sentencing, saying it is appropriate – despite the state attorney general taking the highly unusual step of taking over one case
Last week, one angry mother stood in the courtroom to protest what she saw as lenient sentencing for the drug dealer whose fentanyl-laced pills killed her daughter.
Kailey Caspersen died in May 2021, aged 25, after taking pain killers sold to her by Jesse Lietzau.
Lietzau was charged with third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, but prosecutors asked for probation and up to 240 days in jail.
The 25-year-old has five misdemeanor convictions on his record, including theft, damaging property, disorderly conduct, violating a no-contact order and being a public nuisance, according to Twin Cities.com.
He will be sentenced in November.
Kailey Caspersen died in May 2021, aged 25, after taking pain killers sold to her by Jesse Lietzau
Lietzau admitted that he knew the pills had fentanyl in them, but didn’t tell his client: Moriarty is not seeking the maximum 25-year sentence, but rather probation and up to 240 days in jail
Lietzau admitted that he knew the pills had fentanyl in them, but didn’t tell his client.
Kailey’s mother, Nancy Caspersen, held up signs in court reading: ‘Why are drug dealers getting away with murder?’
She told The Star Tribune: ‘It ain’t fair. It’s not right. She’s my only child.
‘It makes me feel like she didn’t matter to these people.’
Another grieving mother, Catherine Markey, herself a prosecutor, pleaded with Ellison to overturn Moriarty’s decision regarding her son’s murder.
Stephen Markey, a 39-year-old paralegal, was shot and killed in broad daylight in June 2019 by Jared Ohsman, 17, and 15-year-old Husayn Braveheart, as they attempted to steal Markey’s car.
Ohsman was tried as an adult and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison in July, 2020.
But Braveheart has been offered five years probation if he pleads guilty, meaning if he behaves he will not serve a single day of a 261-month prison sentence behind bars.
‘It is an insult to my son, but that’s not the point,’ said Markey’s father, Jerry Markey.
‘My son is gone. Nothing brings him back.
‘But it is also a danger to everyone who lives in Hennepin County. Do you want your daughter to park your car where this guy can see her and potentially carjack again? This man is violent multiple times. He has shown it. He deserves a long prison sentence.’
Stephen Markey, a 39-year-old paralegal, was shot and killed in broad daylight by two teenagers trying to rob him and steal his car
Moriarty has defended her decision to recommend only probation for Markey’s killer, Husayn Braveheart, who was 15 when he shot him dead
Moriarty insisted probation was the right punishment, insisting that Braveheart has been ‘extraordinarily responsive to the carefully selected treatment.’
She added: ‘If we disrupt that progress, we will jeopardize public safety and risk everything when he comes back to the community. We cannot take that risk.’
Ellison last week refused to overturn Moriarty’s decision.
‘Ultimately, all elected officials, including county attorneys, are accountable to voters for their decisions,’ he said.
Ellison did, however, take over the high profile case of Zaria McKeever, 23, who was murdered in her Brooklyn Park home on the orders of a jealous ex boyfriend.
In April the governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, took the highly unusual step of removing Moriarty from the case and handing it to Ellison.
Zaria McKeever, 23, was murdered in her Brooklyn Park home on the orders of a jealous ex boyfriend in November 2022
The murder was allegedly orchestrated by McKeever’s ex, Erick Haynes, 22, and carried out on his request by two teenage brothers, aged 15 and 17.
Attorneys originally moved to certify the two teenage brothers as adults so they could stand trial for second-degree murder alongside Haynes.
But in February, Moriarty changed course and offered the boys a plea deal that would spare them a lengthy adult prison sentence in exchange for their testimony against Haynes.
McKeever’s relatives were outraged by the deal, and petitioned Walz for Moriarty to be removed from the case. Walz agreed.
‘A prosecutor is a minister of justice, and justice is comprised of both accountability and mercy,’ Ellison said in a statement.
‘While I share the belief that too many juveniles are involved in the adult criminal-justice system, accountability for the seriousness of this crime has been missing in this case.’
Moriarty in response called Ellison’s decision unprecedented and ‘deeply troubling.’
On Saturday, she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she was determined to stick to her principals.
‘I think it takes a lot of courage actually to act upon what you say you’re going to do,’ she said.
‘I knew we would get a lot of pushback.
‘But if you’re truly going to make change, if you truly are about your values, and you want to have integrity, and you believe in research and look at the data, these are the right decisions and I stand by them.’