Judge rejects Mary Moriarty’s plea bargain offer

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty’s penchant for offering absurd plea bargains for violent offenders has been exposed several times in her first ten (10) months on the job.  

One example resulted in Attorney General Ellison’s office stepping in to take over the case, as Moriarty’s plea bargain offer was viewed as “outrageous.” 

Despite the criticism and pleas from victims and victim families, Moriarty has forged ahead by offering insultingly low plea bargains, especially involving violent teen offenders. She believes that most young offenders shouldn’t be incarcerated because brain development studies suggest the human brain isn’t fully developed until 25 years of age.

In perhaps the most egregious example, Moriarty has offered murder defendant Husayn Braveheart a plea bargain to serve just one (1) year in the county workhouse and five (5) years on probation. This is for the cold-blooded murder of Steven Markey, who Braveheart and another teen attempted to carjack in Minneapolis in 2019 but shot and killed when Markey attempted to drive away. 

Throughout the pre-trial process, the Markey family has been respectfully opposed to Moriarty’s offer of a reduced sentence to Braveheart. It appears Moriarty has grown tired of their lack of understanding, as any meaningful inclusion into the decision-making process ended some time ago.

In August, the plea bargain was made official in court before Judge Michael Burns. Judge Burns delayed the decision on whether to accept the plea until yesterday. In a stunning, and rare move, Judge Burns rejected the plea agreement offered by Moriarty and set the case for trial in December.

I made a few observations during the hearing that are worth noting:

First — as further evidence of Moriarty’s disregard for the Markey family, her office apparently told the Markeys Friday that there were no specific attorneys assigned to the case — leaving the Markeys no attorney to speak with or make any last-minute appeals to. 

Then Monday morning Moriarty’s office filed an 18-page brief to the court outlining the reasons for their plea offer. Moriarty’s Deputy County Attorney appeared on behalf of Moriarty at the plea hearing, and as noted by the Markeys made no effort to introduce herself or acknowledge their presence.

Second — in an unseemly way Moriarty’s prosecutors and the defense attorneys in this case have not assumed their proper roles. The criminal justice system is designed to operate by parties taking on adversarial roles. Balance is achieved in this manner. The prosecution has the role of seeking to prove guilt, while the defense has the role of seeking to show reasonable doubt. That adversarial relationship has been inappropriately blurred in this case, and that does not honor justice, it impedes it.

Third — Moriarty has a conflict of interest in prosecuting this case, as she was Hennepin County’s lead public defender when Braveheart was initially charged with Murder. Having overseen this case in that role, it is improper for her to now assume the role of prosecutor. Why the Markeys are seemingly the only ones to be concerned with this is curious and wrong.

Fourth — despite suggestions by Moriarty’s office in the brief and in statements made over the past months that Braveheart had shown himself to be particularly responsive to treatment and rehabilitation while in custody, Judge Burns completely rejected that narrative.

Judge Burns aptly laid out his professional experiences as both a probation officer and a prosecutor before becoming a judge. He cited this experience in helping him sift through the various arguments, information, and evidence in the case. As such, he found Moriarty’s suggestion that Braveheart had changed and made significant progress toward rehabilitation to be lacking.

Judge Burns noted that records of Braveheart’s treatment were:

“…punctuated by outbursts, disrespect to staff and other residents, episodes of physical violence and harassment to staff and other residents.”

This is not the picture painted by Moriarty’s office, and that discrepancy in facts is particularly damning to Moriarty’s credibility as a prosecutor.

Moriarty’s first ten (10) months in office have been troubling. Sadly, her leanings and actions are exactly what she told us they would be when Hennepin County voters went to the polls last fall. Absent a recall or some other action, Hennepin County residents are in for at least three (3) more years of an activist prosecutor who is failing to fight for public safety.