Justice for Some of the Youngest: County Attorney's Newsletter
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office releases its February 2013 newsletter.
Editor's Note: The following is a Hennepin County Attorney's Office press release.
Preventing Gun Violence
This month, we have had partial resolutions in two very difficult cases. In both instances, young people took up guns to solve their problems, killing other children. The crimes are almost incomprehensible, young boys shot while riding their bike or sleeping on the couch. And there are other victims, like Terrell Mayes, whose killer we still hope to bring to justice.
These are some of the hardest cases for our office. It's our job to prosecute these crimes, but we also try to prevent violence from happening in the first place. That's one reason we are proposing some common sense gun violence prevention reforms at the legislature. It's also why, through our be@school program, we try to keep young people in school, because we know that youth who are engaged in school are far less likely to be a part of the criminal justice system, either as a victim or a defendant.
In our next update, we will share some of the office's gun violence prevention initiatives.
Guilty plea in Nizzel George murder
Stephon Shannon, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in association with a gang. He sentenced to 28 years in prison for the murder of five-year-old Nizzel George.
Shannon, one of two teenagers charged last year with firing shots into a house at 4515 Bryant Ave. N.
Under questioning from his lawyer, Shannon acknowledged that on the morning of June 26, 2012 he and a 15-year-old accomplice went to the house to retaliate against members of another gang that stayed at that house. They were retaliating from being shot at by the opposing gang members.
Shannon told the court that he did not mean to kill George, who was sleeping on the couch, when they started shooting at the house from the sidewalk. He agreed with his lawyer that he intended “to do as much damage as possible, including killing someone,” in that house.
By admitting to the charge of murder in association with a gang, the sentence is automatically two years longer than a regular second-degree murder penalty.
“He admitted to trying to hit people in the home, although he could not actually see people and he did not intend to hit Nizzel George,” said Deputy County Attorney David Brown.
Proceedings against the other defendant, a juvenile, remain ongoing and confidential.
Teenager admits killing 13-year-old in 2011 Minneapolis shooting
Derrick Deangelo Catchings pleaded guilty in the shooting death of 13-year-old Rayjon Gomez two summers ago. He is expected to receive 459 months, or more than 38 years, in prison. Sentencing was set for 1:30 p.m. on May 20.
“We think this is a good resolution to an almost incomprehensible crime,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “The victim is 13 years old and riding his bicycle. The person who admits pulling the trigger was just 15 at the time. This gun violence among children must stop.”
Catchings, who will turn 17 in two weeks, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder when the gun he fired killed Gomez and wounded another boy as they walked and bicycled in a North Minneapolis alley on Aug. 24, 2011.
The other person with Gomez recovered from his gunshot wounds. Donquarius Davon Copeland, 18, and Kemen Lavatos Taylor II, 26, also were indicted in the incident and face trial together on April 22. Copeland is accused of being the second shooter. Taylor is alleged to have driven the van. Both teenagers were certified as adults.
Community Impact Statements bring your voice to the courtrom
In Minnesota, anyone who has been affected by a crime, even indirectly, has a right to tell the court what impact the incident had on them.
Impact statements are an opportunity for anyone who has been negatively affected by crime to make sure their voice is heard. Crimes like felon in possession, burglaries and drug offenses undermine the safety and livability of neighborhoods. If you feel unsafe, anxious, or afraid due to a crime in your neighborhood, you are entitled to share that information with the court. This valuable community input helps achieve appropriate outcomes.
Lawsuit challenging the regulation of campaign speech dismissed
US District Judge Ann Montgomery dismissed a lawsuit against the county attorney’s office. The suit claimed a statute that restricts knowingly false campaign speech was unconstitutional.
“This is a huge win for the office,” said Civil Division Managing Attorney Dan Rogan, who argued the case with Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Beth Stack. Had they lost the case, it would have meant that citizens could not complain to anyone about campaign materials because the state would have been prohibited from regulating any campaign speech, even blatantly false statements.