Feeding Our Future: a false start on the way to an 19th guilty plea

For a few hours early this week, it appeared that we would have an 19th guilty plea in the sprawling free-food case.

On Monday, March 11, attorneys for Ahmed Artan, Defendant No. 8 in the scandal, filed a notice to change his plea to guilty. The next day those lawyers retracted the guilty plea notice and withdrew from the case.

In withdrawing, his former attorneys noted that Artan had fired them. The attorneys believed that they were on the same page with their client regarding a plea deal which led to the Monday filing.

Either there was a misunderstanding or a change of heart on Artan’s part. In any case, he is officially without representation, just weeks before his trial is to begin in Federal court with eight co-defendants.

According to the original indictment in the case (p. 5, paragraph 16), Artan allegedly participated in the nonprofit Stigma-Free International. He is specifically linked to Stigma-Free’s sites in Willmar (p. 16, paragraph 50) and Waite Park (p. 19, para. 61). Artan allegedly served as the nonprofit’s president (p. 26, para. 101).

Allegedly, Artan was one of the “Five A’s” that purchased the former Kelly’s 19th Hole in Brooklyn Park (p. 49, para. 196). That property is one of the commercial properties (No. 13) subject to forfeiture in the case.

I’m told that the on-again, off-again plea caused a minor stir at the courthouse on Monday in Minneapolis, where the co-defendants were in court for a two-hour hearing on a variety of pre-trial motions and the entering of a handful of formal arraignments.

Mr. Artan’s representation is to be sorted out at a separate hearing scheduled for Monday, March 18.