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Talking With Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner & The RNC

Posted: 01/08/09 22:18, Edited: 07/03/13 13:45

by Dave Mindeman

Over the past couple of years...on New Year's Eve.... I have blogged about the Top 10 Worst Political Persons in Minnesota. It is a bit of a tongue in cheek take off on Keith Olbermann's Worst Persons in the World segment on his show. The Top 10 are selected to point out some controversy about policy or performance that merits a mention. It usually bumps traffic on this site by a factor of 50....which I find a bit surprising, but I'll take it.

This year one of the people making that list cried foul. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner indicated I had it wrong and so she and I arranged an interview which took place today. As a review of what we discussed here is her "Top 10" mention:

#6. Susan Gaertner. I don't know how involved Gaertner was in the preparations for the Republican National Convention, but she clearly has defended and condoned the overzealous police tactics that were in evidence before and during the convention. The wholesale roundup of people on the streets and the ridiculously elevated charges are hard to understand. Susan Gaertner has announced an early bid for the DFL endorsement for governor in 2010. But I am not certain who she is trying to impress with the tactics surrounding her office actions. Does she think she is touting some hard core, law and order personna? If so, it doesn't seem to be working. As Ramsey county attorney, she could have reigned in the borderline repressive tactics coming out of Sheriff Fletcher's office, but instead she has pushed forward with legal proceedings that have questionable merit. Maintaining order is one thing, but Gaertner's legal support of this type of policing has put her credentials as a viable governor candidate in question. Word of advice.....Better skip the convention and head for the primary.

Our discussion ended up lasting well over an hour and it went into a broad range of topics which talked about the broader RNC issues and also her current run for Governor. In this post, I'll talk about the RNC and tomorrow, I'll do another on the issues regarding the governor's race.

Now, as we discussed the issues regarding the RNC and the RNC8, we had to dance around some on the record -- off the record issues. The trial has not begun and so she could not discuss specifics.... but we did delve into some of the broader issues.

One of the things she objected to was my tieing her into a responsibility for police actions. She was very clear that she neither condoned nor criticized the tactics surrounding the police actions before or during the Republican National Convention. As she stated, that was not her job responsibility. She only dealt with the issues of potential crimes that reached her desk.

OK, that was a reasonable objection. However, we kept coming back to one thing. Her discretionary authority about what charges were warranted. I tried to get this quote down correctly:

"The prosecutor's job is not involved with police tactics and the means of gathering evidence....only to discern whether there is enough of a case to justify a charge that results in a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt."

I am sure she didn't mean to insinuate that the prosecutor's office never questions the police method of gathering evidence, because clearly the police can cause problems for her office by circumventing the rules. I gathered that she meant that she accepts evidence that is correctly gathered.

But we had some disagreement about what amount of discretion she has in what charges to file. Most of the lawyers I know consider prosecutorial discretion to be very broad. Ms. Gaertner seemed to be saying that that is not always the case. We came back to that issue several times and I won't go into too much of the details, but she seemed to be indicating that there are times when a case can be presented to her which dictates the procedure and limits her discretion.

As we talked, a few things about the broader issues came out:

-- She pointed out that whatever critcism I had for the Minnesota Patriot Act, her job wasn't to criticize or praise it. Her only job is to enforce it. It would be the legislature's job to fix it, if necessary.

-- She was one public official who was NOT promoting the idea for the Republican National Convention to come here.

-- She also points out that anyone who thinks she has been looking for public attention from the RNC court trials is crazy. She is merely doing her job and sees no special advantage or disadvantage to the RNC issues. Although, she does hope for a speedy resolution.

-- Regarding Amy Goodman... she wishes to point out once and for all that her office had nothing to do with her arrest or her release. She was never formally charged with anything. All Ms. Gaertner's office got out of the deal was an overloaded e-mail system.

-- She feels confident that the trial will present a truer picture of what went on at the RNC then what is circulating around the progressive/peace community.

I hope that once the RNC8 trial is completed that we can revisit some of these issues in more detail. I asked her if she would be willing to debate those issues with Coleen Rowley at a mnpACT! meeting when the trial is over. She has tentatively said yes.
comments (4) permalink
01/10/09 23:36
Also - to correct Charley's comment below - the maximum prison time possible for the RNC 8 would be a total of 12.5 years. (I think details on the breakdown should be up on RNC8.org.) That includes the TWO terrorism enhancements under the patriot act charges. All while those who actually terrorized people during the RNC keep their jobs.

The maximum time still possible for Gaertner's political career should be a total of about 12.5 minutes.
01/10/09 23:32
"Although, she does hope for a speedy resolution."

Insane. The RNC 8 aren't expected to go to trial until September at the earliest - probably even later.

"She feels confident that the trial will present a truer picture of what went on at the RNC then what is circulating around the progressive/peace community."

This may be actually be somewhat true, if only because a trial would likely expose the depth and breadth of police and federal misconduct, including surveillance and infiltration, and be quite embarasing for the system that Gaertner upholds by remaining in her office and continuing to press these charges. They are political charges regardless of the motivation Gaertner claims.

She wants a speedy and just resolution - she should drop all the RNC charges, period.

In the mean time, anyone who calls themselves progressive should not be fooled - Gaertner is paid to get convictions at any cost. She has incentive to lie. She is not a progressive - she's a reactionary and should be dealt with like any other.
01/10/09 19:14
Thanks for so thoroughly exploring Gaertner's abusive and dangerous prosecution of political activists as "terrorists." As a prosecutor, she no doubt has discretion to refuse to enforce a law that she believes to be wrong, such as the Minnesota Patriot Act. (For example, there are criminal laws against adultery, fornication, sodomy, etc that no prosecutor enforces). Charley also hit another nail on the head with his comments about Gaertner adding three new felony charges including another terrorism charge right after the protest at her fundraiser. It is good to hear that information about Gaertner's actions are going around the progressive/peace community - But I think this needs a lot more attention! [Disclosure - I am a lawyer for one of the RNC8].
01/10/09 00:14
At this point, Susan Gaertner seems vindictive. A few weeks after the RNC, she was quoted as saying that she doubted any of the RNC 8 would get more than a year of jail time, despite maximum potential of over 7 years. But right after the protesters showed up at her gubernatorial fundraiser, she added 3 new felony charges to each person, with a potential of over 20 years each. I don't understand why she believes sheriff Bob Fletcher's paranoid ravings in the first place, but it sure seems like she is throwing her weight around at this point.


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