The Minnesota Freedom Fund continues to use its celebrity-infused $40 million cash windfall to bail out violent and potentially dangerous people, several of whom have been charged with new crimes, including murder, sex offenses and serious assaults while out on bail in the Twin Cities.
The nonprofit bail fund was founded in 2016 but gained notoriety during the protests and riots that followed the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.
In the days and weeks that followed Floyd’s death, protests, disturbances, fires and riots broke out across the metro causing hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.
The Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) vowed at the time to bail out any protesters arrested, which spurred a flurry of celebrity donations and social media promotions by the likes of Vice President Kamala Harris, Justin Timberlake, Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and Chrissy Teigen. The fund initially took in about $30 million in a matter of weeks following the celebrity promoted tweets.
The organization’s most recent financial disclosure indicates it had revenue of over $41 million in 2020.
Despite MFF raising the hefty figures on the premise of bailing out peaceful protesters, very few protesters were actually bailed out by the fund. In an August 2020 media interview, then interim executive director Greg Lewin stated only about a dozen protesters were recipients of MFF bail funds.
Instead, the organization has strayed far outside its promised objective of bailing out protesters with the windfall. MFF is wielding its financial power and weaponizing its $40 million asset in its political pursuit to end bail, resulting in the release of violent and potentially dangerous offenders into the community.
Lewin stated in the same Fox 9 interview, “I often don’t even look at a charge when I bail someone out.”
Crime Watch Minneapolis has begun collating a list of offenders bailed out by the fund who have subsequently been charged with new crimes or who pose a potential danger to the public. Crime Watch notes the list is not comprehensive but only contains known cases so far.
George Howard was in custody for domestic assault. He was subsequently charged with murder 18 days after being bailed out by MFF.
George Howard was in custody for domestic assault. He was subsequently charged with murder 18 days after being bailed out by MFF.https://t.co/CauCDq8FFz
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) February 16, 2022
Gregory Jones was in custody for attacking a woman in a bar bathroom. He was subsequently charged with committing lewd acts in front of children three days after being bailed out by MFF.
Lionel Timms was in custody for a violent assault of a passenger on a Metro Transit bus. He subsequently left a Northeast Minneapolis bar manager with a brain injury in a violent assault 11 days after being bailed out by MFF.
Agitator Thomas Moseley was facing charges in multiple cases. After MFF bailed him out, he was arrested at the Hennepin County courthouse with a gun during court proceedings for the four officers in the George Floyd case. After being arrested, police found several more guns as well as a panel for stopping bullets in a bulletproof vest, a gas mask and about 50 bullets in his vehicle.
Da’Seanna Williams was in custody for brutally pistol whipping, shooting and robbing an elderly Somali woman for rent money she was carrying in her purse. Williams was re-arrested at least three times on conditional release violations after MFF bailed her out.
Twice-convicted level-three sex offender Christopher Don Boswell was bailed out by MFF after being charged in new cases with kidnapping, sexual assault and second-degree assault. Boswell subsequently was wanted on warrants and was charged with strangling a woman.
Vennie Jerome Williams was charged with assaulting media personality Matt Belanger in a homophobic attack in May 2020. The case is still pending, and Williams has been deemed incompetent by the court. Williams also has an extensive criminal history. MFF bailed him out.
Vennie Jerome Williams, charged with assaulting media personality Matt Belanger in a homophobic attack in 2020. The case is still pending and Williams has been deemed incompetent. Plus, Williams has an extensive criminal history. MFF bailed him out.
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) February 20, 2022
Bel Mbungson Tosah made multiple statements to police that he wanted to rape children while he was causing extensive damage in the Terminal 1 Transit Center at the MSP Airport. He was bailed out by MFF.
Deshaun Jermaine Boyd knocked a man with a cane to the ground and stomped on his head before robbing him. The attack left the victim with significant injuries. MFF bailed him out. Boyd was eventually convicted in the case and is scheduled for release in March.
Richard Raynell Kelley was charged in a violent domestic assault against his 71-year-old mother during which he told her he was going to kill her. MFF bailed him out. Kelley was eventually convicted in July 2021 on third-degree assault in the case, but his 15-month prison sentence was stayed by Judge Jay Quam. Kelley was instead placed on probation. He is currently wanted on a felony warrant for violating probation.
Convicted predatory offender Timothy Wayne Columbus is charged with raping an 8-year-old child. MFF bailed him out. The child rape case is still pending. Columbus does not appear to be in custody at this time.
Darnika Floyd was charged with stabbing a man to death in Northeast Minneapolis because he didn’t want to have sex with her. She evaded arrest and charges for over a year. Once arrested, MFF paid $100,000 to bail her out. Floyd was convicted and sentenced to 13 years. Her scheduled release is 2029.
Don’Quarius Malik Woods evaded arrest on a felony warrant for two years on illegal gun possession after initially being released on zero bail. After his arrest two years later, bail was upped to $100,000. MFF supplied it. Woods again violated release and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Multi-time felon and domestic abuser Donovan Dexter Boone was charged in May 2020 with breaking into the residence of his child’s mother and strangling her while in front of her minor children. Boone was bailed out by MFF. He is currently wanted on a felony warrant after failing to appear at a scheduled hearing in the case in December.
Previously convicted four times on domestic assault, Dalvin Devonte Gates was again charged in May 2020 after he allegedly strangled a woman just days after she allowed him to move in with her, according to a statement of probable cause. MFF bailed him out. Gates was eventually convicted on third-degree assault in the case. Despite his history of convictions on violent crimes, Gates was granted a stayed sentence by Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu.
Previously convicted on domestic assault, Marcus Marshun Butler was charged again after he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend in August 2020, according to a statement of probable cause. Butler struck the victim “five or six times with a closed fist,” according to the statement. MFF bailed him out. Butler skipped immediately after being bailed out by MFF and has been wanted on a gross misdemeanor warrant in the case since Sept. 1, 2020.
Matthew Owens Earl Thompson has been previously convicted in two cases on violating a no-contact order and domestic assault. Thompson was charged in July 2020 with a felony for again violating a domestic no-contact order after forcing his way into his ex-partner’s Minnetonka residence and throwing rocks at her windows.
Thompson was bailed out two separate times in the case by MFF. The second bail out was after Thompson was arrested on a conditional release violation. Thompson subsequently failed to show for a scheduled hearing and yet another warrant was issued. Thompson has pleaded guilty in the case and is scheduled for sentencing in April. He is not currently in custody.
Reece Omaur Bonneville was arrested and charged in August 2020 after he allegedly assaulted his domestic partner and the two Minneapolis officers who came to apprehend him, leaving one with a black eye and another with a cut on his triceps, according to a statement of probable cause.
The statement also said that Bonneville’s victim was “holding their child while the assault was occurring.” MFF bailed him out. Bonneville eventually pleaded guilty to one count of domestic assault and four other charges were dismissed, including fourth-degree assault on a police officer. Bonneville was granted a stay of imposition and was placed on probation by Judge Kevin S. Burke.
Minnesota Freedom Fund responds
Within days of the list gaining significant attention and shares after being published on Twitter and Facebook, MFF posted a statement on social media saying it had received “legitimate questions about our work when people for whom we’ve paid bails are accused of other crimes after their release.”
Without specifically addressing the suspects who had reoffended after being bailed out, MFF posted a series of four images on social media claiming that bail is racist and criminalizes poverty. MFF stated its belief that crime would be prevented with access to things like housing, food and addiction treatment.
MFF also claimed in the statement that it works to contact and support every person it bails out to further address their needs but then appeared to redirect blame back on the “system” for failures that occur.
Directors for the organization then appeared in an interview with WCCO TV but refused to answer any questions about how many suspects had reoffended, seen their cases dismissed or been found innocent after being bailed out.
“So this isn’t a public safety analysis,” said co-executive director Elizer Darris. “This isn’t is this a situation in which this person is a risk or is this person [not] a risk. This is can this person afford [bail] or can this person not afford it.”
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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.