Ramsey Co. Attorney Choi Belatedly Tries to Quit Trump Crime Commission
Members of a high level presidential commission on law enforcement and justice issues wrapping up its work have challenged Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s claims he resigned over differences with the group’s aims, while characterizing the St. Paul prosecutor’s participation as someone who “didn’t have a lot of depth.”
Choi was one of four local prosecutors named last year to a working group on President Trump’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice whose report will be released next month.
The HuffPost reports Choi has written a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr announcing his resignation over his concerns the commission was “intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past” and will issue a final report that “will only widen the divisions in our nation.”
John Choi, the elected prosecutor in Ramsey County, Minnesota, served as a member of the commission’s criminal justice system personnel intersection working group. But Choi, whose county includes the city of St. Paul, wrote in a letter to Barr that he was quitting his role on one of the commission’s 17 working groups because he worries the final report “will vilify local prosecutors who exercise their well settled prosecutorial discretion consistent with their community’s values and the interests of justice.”
Most recently Choi has invoked his prosecutorial discretion by slow-walking the case against the vandals who toppled the Christopher Columbus statute at the Minnesota State Capitol. To date charges have been filed against just one individual more than three months after several participants were filmed tearing down the monument on television. Choi has indicated even that individual will not stand trial but face a different path, according to KARE-11.
But some of Choi’s colleagues on the presidential commission not only took issue with Choi’s characterization of the group’s focus but also his last-ditch attempt to quit.
The Justice Department struck back at Choi, with one official telling HuffPost that Choi didn’t really resign because the working groups had already completed their work. The two chairs of the working group ― former U.S. Attorney Jay Town and Cook County Judge William O’Brien ― also criticized Choi’s work in interviews with HuffPost. Town said Choi offered “very little in substance,” while O’Brien said his opinions “didn’t have a lot of depth.”
Choi told Barr he disagreed with the commission’s focus on more effective enforcement of laws already on the books.
“Rather than examine how decades of over-policing in communities of color have created that deficit of trust, the Commission was instead encouraged to study ‘underenforcement’ of criminal laws and ‘refusals by State and local prosecutors to enforce laws or prosecute categories of crimes’,” Choi wrote.
Yet Choi’s critics on the commission claim he never followed through on issues he championed like bail reform.
Town also said that while he couldn’t say how diverse the commissioners’ views and experiences might be because he didn’t know all of them, he could say they took their work seriously.
“What I do know from my interaction with the commission is that the individual commissioners, unlike Choi, took their role on the commission very seriously and had genuine purpose in identifying ways in which our justice system might improve for every American,” he said.
Town claims Choi also pushed to review the commission’s report in advance.
“The final version is up to the president of the United States,” Town said. “The fact that some study group guy ― the district attorney for a county of 400,000 ― is gonna get editorial rights on a commission report before it’s released from the president of the United States is just outlandish.”
Choi reportedly asked for his name to be left off the final report, due out in October. It appears he’ll just have to wait like everyone else to find out what’s in it, including his own name.