Man freed by bail fund allegedly uses freedom to commit murder

Accused pedophiles, serial domestic abusers, convicted rapists and individuals who use their freedom to commit more crime have all received financial aid from the organization.

George Howard/Hennepin County Jail

A man allegedly shot and killed somebody in a road-rage incident days after he was sprung from jail by the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF).

George Howard, 47, was arrested Aug. 3, charged with domestic abuse and held in jail until Aug. 12 when the MFF paid his bail, according to documents obtained by Crime Watch Minneapolis. Eighteen days after his release, Howard shot and killed Luis Martinez Ortiz, 38, over a traffic dispute, according to prosecutors. Howard now faces two charges of second-degree murder in connection with this killing.

Howard was convicted after police viewed a surveillance video that allegedly recorded the murder. In the video, Ortiz approaches Howard’s car and is seen collapsing, apparently from a gunshot. Ortiz then re-enters his vehicle and drives a short way but crashes as he dies.

Investigators quickly tracked Howard to a nearby gas station where he exited the car, which was driven away by a passenger who took the driver’s seat. Howard admitted to the confrontation but claimed a third man in the car pulled the trigger. He was unable, however, to provide any details about this individual.

“I often don’t even look at a charge when I bail someone out,” a former director of the fund told Fox 9 last year as the fund was rocketed into the public consciousness amidst the George Floyd riots. The MFF received over $35 million in donations to bail out protesters during last summer’s unrest, aided by promotion from then-candidate Kamala Harris and other progressive influencers.

That former director’s statement has been a focal point of controversy as the fund has been identified as the party that posted bail for multiple habitual offenders. Accused pedophiles, serial domestic abusers, convicted rapists and individuals who use their freedom to commit more crime have all received financial aid from the organization — some more than once. Bails range from very small amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now that the Floyd riots are over, the fund has found itself with more money than it knows what to do with as it no longer has rioters to free, according to its current co-directors. Director Mirella Ceja-Orozco says the MFF has now reduced its spending to $100,000 a week.

Some elements of Twin Cities law enforcement say that having an organization pumping that much cash into the bail system has had a destabilizing effect. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman warned that the fund’s practices raise “significant concerns for public safety.”

The MFF issued a statement Friday night and confirmed that it had previously provided Howard with “bail support.”

“The killing of Luis Martinez Ortiz is an undeniable loss and tragedy for the entire community,” the group said on Twitter. “We have heard from you and we have revised this statement because our previous statement did not acknowledge this deep loss and for that we apologize. While we still believe in our mission of providing bail support to people in need, we continue to look at the best way to do this.”