Hennepin County’s newly elected progressive county attorney Mary Moriarty is wasting no time following through on her campaign promise to go soft on crime.
“We will make every effort to keep children out of the court system when possible,” Sarah Davis, Moriarty’s hand-picked choice to lead the county’s Children and Families division, informed juvenile prosecutors via memo, according to KARE 11.
“We are focused on accountability, treatment and healing; not punishment,” she continued, KARE 11 reported.
Moriarty won election last fall after besting a seven-person primary race by winning 36% of the electorate. She then received nearly 60% of the vote total in the general election against Martha Holton Dimick, who was supported by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
Moriarty, 59, previously served as a Hennepin County public defender for 31 years, with six of those coming as the chief public defender. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison endorsed her pro-“restorative justice” candidacy.
Davis’ memo further calls on prosecutors to understand that the brain is not fully developed in a person’s teenage years, and that sentencing should take that into account. Relying on a “racial equity lens” is also paramount, she argued.
“Another way that I think about accountability is that it is focused on stopping the harm from happening and repairing the harm that has happened, as opposed to punishment, which is focused on enforcing rules,” Davis said, according to KARE 11.
Moriarty first came under fire in January of this year when she dropped a rape charge involving a 14-year-old victim during her first week in office.
“An alleged rapist is now free without the process of determining accountability for his conduct having been completed,” Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said of the dismissal, which he characterized as “curious and disturbing.”
She has also been strongly criticized for offering two boys under the age of 18 who shot and killed Zaria McKeever in her Brooklyn Park apartment a plea deal with a 2-year term in a juvenile facility followed by probation. They were allegedly ordered to kill McKeever by her ex-boyfriend, Erick Haynes, who is facing second-degree murder charges. A judge recently signed off on the plea deal for one of the boys.
KARE reports that Davis’ memo puts Moriarty’s philosophical approach entirely at odds with that of her predecessor, Mike Freeman, who sought to have the two boys tried as adults.
McKeever’s family has launched a petition asking Attorney General Keith Ellison to take the case from Moriarty’s office.
In a rare move, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association released a statement Tuesday calling on the state to intervene in the case.
“Giving juveniles a soft slap on the wrist for murder — the purposeful taking of another’s life — is an appalling decision by the Hennepin County Attorney. Rather than seeking justice for victims of crime, her decisions re-victimize and make the community less safe,” said MPPOA general counsel Imran Ali, a former county prosecutor.
“The consequences of improper charging decisions and weak sentences will embolden crime by violent juveniles and adults who prey on them — knowing that in Hennepin County, juveniles will be treated fondly under the new policy. The family of Ms. McKeever is in our thoughts and prayers,” he added.
MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters called Moriarty’s actions “reckless.”
“In this case of great criminal importance, the state should immediately intervene, as the reckless charging decisions from County Attorney Moriarty embolden those that seek mayhem and make the community less safe for every resident and every law enforcement officer.”
Moriarty’s office filed charges against two adults last week who allegedly aided Haynes. She said she gained the cooperation of the two teens by offering them plea deals, which “led to the charging of the two additional adult defendants in this case.”
“Adult prison provides little to no opportunity for rehabilitation, and for children, is counterproductive,” her office said in a statement. “Youth sent directly to the adult system have far worse outcomes than those given the benefit of juvenile programming — they are less likely to gain employment, more likely to be impoverished, and much more likely to commit crimes in the future. It should, therefore, be a last resort, as it is here.”
Stephen Kokx, M.A., is a journalist for LifeSiteNews. He previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago under the late Francis Cardinal George. A former community college instructor, Stephen has written and spoken extensively about Catholic social teaching and politics. His essays have appeared in such outlets as Catholic Family News and CatholicVote.org.