State lawmaker urges bail fund to end ‘unconscionable’ practice of bailing out violent criminals 

Rep. Paul Novotny criticized the organization for its role in freeing 47-year-old George Howard last month just 18 days before he allegedly committed murder.

Background: The Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr) Right: Rep. Paul Novotny/Minnesota House

State Rep. Paul Novotny is calling on the Minnesota Freedom Fund to immediately end its practice of indiscriminately bailing out violent offenders, who in many cases quickly reoffend.

The controversial nonprofit raked in more than $30 million in donations last year after receiving high-profile endorsements from celebrities and left-wing politicians, who were apparently under the impression that the money would be used to help free protesters arrested during the George Floyd riots.

That’s not exactly how the money has been used. Since last summer, the Freedom Fund has used its cash flow to bail out a man accused of raping a child, a twice-convicted rapist, six serial domestic abusers, and a man who allegedly beat his own 71-year-old mother.

In August 2020, the group freed Lionel Timms, a 32-year-old man who was provided bail by the Freedom Fund just days before violently assaulting a bar manager in Minneapolis. The “unprovoked attack” left the bar manager with a traumatic brain injury.

The group said in a statement earlier this year that it does not “make determinations of bail support based on the crimes that individuals are alleged to have committed.” This fits with comments made by the organization’s former director, who told Fox 9 that he often didn’t even look at charges when bailing people out.

The nonprofit’s ultimate goal is to end the cash bail system in Minnesota because it believes people “should not have to wait in jail simply because they do not have the same income or resources as others with more financial privilege.”

But that doesn’t mean it should be bailing out violent offenders, especially those with a history of domestic abuse, according to Novotny. The law-enforcement veteran called on the Minnesota Freedom Fund to “immediately halt bail payments for violent offenders” in a statement issued Tuesday.

He pointed to the organization’s role in freeing 47-year-old George Howard last month just 18 days before he allegedly committed murder. Howard was in jail on charges of domestic abuse.

“It’s unconscionable to be putting victims back in harm’s way by bailing out their abusers and putting lives at risk by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” said Novotny.

The Freedom Fund issued, and then deleted, a statement confirming that it provided “bail support” for Howard.

“As a longtime member of law enforcement, I have defended our constitutional principles of due process for my entire career. But the Minnesota Freedom Fund’s decision to bail out any and all criminals, regardless of criminal history, gives those individuals a blank check and zero accountability to follow the law and show up for their court date once out on bail,” said Novotny.

The Republican lawmaker said criminals who are bailed out by the Freedom Fund face no financial consequences for violating the terms of their release.

But their freedom “has devastating consequences for families who will never see their loved one again, victims who live in fear when their abuser is released from jail, and more.”

“While the Minnesota Freedom Fund has the legal right to use the millions of dollars they raise from celebrities and Democrat politicians — including Vice President Kamala Harris — they should pause and reflect whether their opposition to bail outweighs the need to keep Minnesotans safe,” he said.

Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation this year that would have prevented charitable organizations from posting bail for people charged with or previously convicted of violent crimes.