By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
REMEMBER THE FLAP over Minneapolis Council Member Brian Herron's letter on City Hall stationery calling for reduced bail for reputed gang leader Reggie Ferguson after a jury deadlocked in Ferguson's trial? Keith Ellison, a Minneapolis lawyer, says outrage over Herron as a politician meddling in the court system is an example of race-based hypocrisy. In a blistering attack in Insight News recently, Ellison noted that Herron, the Council's lone black member, was vilified while Dennis Schulstad, the white 13th Ward representative, received no criticism for writing a letter in another case calling for stiffer penalties for an Ellison client.
"Why is it bad for Brian Herron to write a letter in favor of Reggie Ferguson, but good for Dennis Schulstad to write a letter against my client?" Ellison asked. "Can government officials only inflict pain and punishment on Black defendants, but not the reverse?"
Schulstad, for his part, denies ever writing a letter--which Ellison could not produce. However, Schulstad acknowledged calling Judge Kathleen Blatz about the case; Blatz says the call came after she invited community input following a drug-dealing conviction. Schulstad says one difference between his and Herron's actions is that he intervened as a community resident, not as a council member; Blatz confirms that Schulstad did not mention his political position. "He merely reiterated the community's call for a tough sentence," Blatz recalls.
However, it's unlikely that Schulstad and Blatz needed a formal introduction. Blatz is a former Republican legislator from Bloomington, a stone's throw from Schulstad's ward, and Schulstad is the council's only GOP (though officially independent) member. Unsaid political connections are a privilege of the city's long-time political elite, which newcomer Herron does not enjoy--one reason, perhaps, that he naively put pen to paper.