Ellison represented gang members, man found guilty in triple homicide

Minnesota Democrats are aggressively targeting Ellison's opponent, Jim Schultz, for his past legal work, going so far as to demand he release a list of his clients.

Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (Minnesota Attorney General's Office)

In his time as an attorney throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Keith Ellison represented individuals who were accused and eventually convicted of killing children.

Before serving as a U.S. congressman and then attorney general of Minnesota, Ellison worked as a lawyer for the Legal Rights Center, a nonprofit whose stated mission is “to seek justice and promote racial equity for those to whom it has been historically denied.” He then went back into private practice at Hassan & Reed, where he was employed as of December 1998, according to court records. It’s unclear exactly when he left the Legal Rights Center.

Some of Ellison’s clients were found guilty of murder in the deaths of young children.

The Star Tribune reported in August 1997 that Raymont Osborne, then 25, was convicted on second-degree murder charges after shaking his 5-week-old son to death. Osborne was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.

Ellison unsuccessfully tried requesting probation for his client, who denied killing his 5-month-old son, but Hennepin County Judge Isabel Gomez swiftly rejected the idea.

According to a St. Paul Pioneer Press story from June 2002, Ellison was the attorney for then 26-year-old Timothy McGruder, one of three gang members found guilty in the shooting death of a 4-year-old girl at a St. Paul gas station.

The Pioneer Press painted a portrait of an emotionally charged courtroom, where family members of the defendants “burst out in grief and anger” as the jury pronounced the three men guilty of aiding and abetting murder in aid of racketeering.

“As the men were being escorted back into custody, McGruder lost his composure and began screaming obscenities. His lawyer, Keith Ellison, called to him: ‘Be cool, Tim. Be cool,'” the story reads.

In 1996, Ellison said he was “deeply disappointed” with the guilty verdict against his client Adrian Riley, a drug dealer who killed three people “execution-style with a 9-millimeter pistol,” per the Star Tribune.

“Although police could not match a gun found at the south Minneapolis house with the bullets used in the killings, they did match the gun to more than a dozen shell casings found at the scene,” the article reads.

Michael Fahey, then the county attorney for Carver County, said the case had more of an “emotional impact” on the county than any case in the last decade.

“We, to this day, do not know why this happened,” he said, according to the Star Tribune. “He just killed them in cold blood.”

Minnesota Democrats are aggressively targeting Ellison’s opponent, Jim Schultz, for his past legal work, going so far as to demand he release a list of clients “from the two hedge funds he worked for.” DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said “it is imperative that we fully understand the work he did at his various hedge funds.”

“Unlike Keith Ellison’s clients, which even included an individual implicated in the execution of a police officer, Jim’s clients over the years have been entirely reputable and have included Minnesota school districts, Minnesota cities, and Minnesota-based small businesses,” Schultz’s campaign manager responded.

The reelection campaign for Attorney General Ellison did not respond to Alpha News’ multiple requests for comment.

Ellison is trailing Schultz by almost 5 points, according to a recent Alpha News/Trafalgar Group poll.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.