Representative Thompson’s obstruction trial underway in Minneapolis
The Minnesota lawmaker is on trial on a misdemeanor charge in a 2019 incident at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale.
MINNEAPOLIS – Testimony is scheduled to begin Friday in the obstruction trial of Representative John Thompson in Hennepin County District Court. The St. Paul Democrat faces a misdemeanor charge in connection with an incident at North Memorial Hospital in 2019, a year before his election to the state legislature.
Jury selection occupied much of the first two days of the trial, as opposing lawyers engage in a voir dire, the slow and deliberate process of questioning jurors one by one in an attempt to detect evidence. possible biases. The interrogation deepened questions of race, police, George Floyd and Daunte Wright because Thompson claims he was the target of arrest for being a straight black man.
“My client goes to court because he is innocent of the charge. Worse than that, he is persecuted because he speaks openly where he sees racism, and that is why he is being prosecuted in this case,” Thompson’s defense attorney Jordan Kushner told KARE.
“Mainly because he accused police and hospital security and hospital staff of treating black people differently and in a racist manner.”
The charge stems from an episode at North Memorial Hospital on November 21, 2019. Thompson, a machinist, former labor leader and political activist, was among dozens who rushed to the emergency room after hearing from a friend allegedly attempted suicide.
North Memorial security called for reinforcements, telling the Robbinsdale Police Department that people were trying to enter parts of the emergency department that were closed to visitors. The hospital went into lockdown mode, as agents from several agencies converged.
Thompson was arrested after verbally fighting with officers, telling them they were overreacting and making the situation worse. Officers accused Thompson of trying to resist arrest when they first tried to handcuff him. Kushner said he was just stunned because they hurt his arm suddenly twisting it behind his back.
Thompson has been a vocal critic of the police since his friend Philando Castile was killed during a 2016 traffic stop in Falcon Heights. He spoke out against the law enforcement community for overseeing black men and uneven enforcement of marijuana laws.
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“Mr. Thompson is blunt. He calls it what he sees it and most people don’t,” Kushner explained.
Each potential juror was interviewed by Judge Michael K. Browne, Kushner and Derek Archambault, the private attorney acting as district attorney for the town of Robbinsdale where the hospital is located.
At the end of Thursday’s hearing, six jurors had been selected. Six jurors and a deputy are required in a misdemeanor case. The prosecution and defense each used their powers to preemptively strike jurors who they said could not remain neutral.
Simple offenses carry a penalty of 0 to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $ 1,000. Previous acts are not taken into account for misdemeanor penalties.
Rep. Thompson made headlines this week because he accused a St. Paul police sergeant of profiling him during a traffic stop on July 4. When reporters called to verify the story, police revealed that Thompson only had a Wisconsin driver’s license, despite living in Minnesota for many years.
This prompted critics to demand an investigation into his residence. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association has asked the Wisconsin attorney general to consider perjury charges against Thompson for signing a form attesting that the Wisconsin address he gave was correct.
Thompson released a statement Monday evening saying he was addressing these licensing issues. So far, he has not accepted any interviews with journalists.
Last year, the MPPOA pressured Governor Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman to withdraw their support for Thompson over the inflammatory statements he made during a protest in Hugo in 2020. The protest took place after Floyd’s death and targeted the neighborhood of Lt. Bob Kroll, the chief of the Minneapolis Police Federation.
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Walz and Hortman did not withdraw their endorsements. Thompson still won his election by a landslide in a strongly Democratic district.