Media culpability in the tarnishing of the badge
Each year in May, we set aside time to honor fallen peace officers as part of National Peace Officers Memorial Week. Today elected officials, law enforcement leaders and the public…
The suspect in the murder of Marquisha Wiley — killed in a gunfight in a bar on St. Paul’s popular West 7th Avenue recently — had been sentenced to a year in jail in August but let out early by Judge Julia Dayton Klein. This was only the most recent example of the lenience of Minnesota’s courts towards Terry Lorenzo Brown Jr. As the Pioneer Press reports:
Brown was sentenced for five felonies between 2007 and 2019. While state sentencing guidelines recommended prison time in four of the cases, judges gave him lighter sentences in three of the cases and didn’t send him to prison — the possibility of being locked up was hanging over his head if he violated terms of his probation.
Instead of going to prison when Brown continued to break the conditions of his probation, he was given more probation. In all, from 2007 to the present, most of the time Brown spent locked up was while he waited for his cases to be heard. Once he was sentenced, he received credit for time served and was released from custody.
The reporters, Mara Gottfried and Deanna Weniger, provide more detail:
Brown was first convicted of a felony, aggravated robbery, at age 18. In the 14 years that followed, Brown was sentenced for at least nine offenses in Minnesota, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. An attorney for Brown couldn’t be reached for comment.
The one time that Brown was sent to prison came when he was 26 and was convicted of aiding and abetting simple robbery in Ramsey County. He was sentenced in 2014 to two years and five months, which was a guidelines sentence.
Court records and information from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission show the following about Brown’s history:
In 2007, an aggravated robbery conviction, Hennepin County. Based on the severity of the case, the presumptive sentence was prison. To the objection of the prosecutor, he received a downward departure with stayed prison time — the reasons cited were that Brown was amenable to probation and remorseful. He was credited for 143 days he had served in the workhouse and put on probation for seven years.
In 2011, a drug possession conviction, Hennepin County. The guidelines sentence was a stay of execution, which is what Brown received. He was put on probation until 2015.
In 2017, a gross misdemeanor domestic assault conviction, Ramsey County. He was sentenced to one year, which was stayed, and released after serving 69 days.
In 2017, a felony violation of no-contact order, Ramsey County. The guidelines sentence was prison. He received a stayed sentence, credit for 25 days he served in jail and was released on probation until 2022. It was a plea agreement that police and the victim supported, according to the Ramsey County attorney’s office.
And in 2019, a felony violation of no-contact order, Hennepin County. State sentencing guidelines called for Brown to be sent to prison; the sentence was stayed with the judge indicating that Brown was amenable to probation. He served 180 days on work release. The Hennepin County attorney’s office said it was supported by the victim. He violated probation twice more, resetting his time through 2024.
You may think it a mistake to keep on giving repeat offenders chance after chance. But not everyone thinks that:
“For every incident where a (sentencing) departure fails, we probably find two where departure succeeds,” said Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro, who was also talking in general terms. “… Hopefully we get it right, but of course there’ll be times when we get it wrong. We struggle with those decisions and we live with them.”
So, the odds of something like this are one in three, according to Judge Castro. The victim’s families will have to live with it, too.