I am running for Hennepin County Attorney because it is not enough to just call out injustice. We need to all be part of creating change, the kind of change that raises expectations for justice and human dignity in Hennepin County. As a Richfield council member and a practicing attorney– who represents minority communities and business owners across the metro– I have been one of many calling for change, equity and transparency in how local government and our criminal/legal systems operate. As a Latino of Puerto Rican descent, a father and husband, and a business owner and entrepreneur, I know that only through creating a richer dialogue with every stakeholder impacted by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office can we begin to create the deep structural change we need– but we need leadership that is present and accountable, something we have lacked.
I have been present with community before, during and after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing trauma and racial reckoning we experienced. We now must again face head on the systemic injustices his death has illuminated, like so many deaths before his also have. As a council member in Richfield, I have led on criminal justice reform efforts empowering prosecutors to seal records as part of the plea bargaining process. I have worked on civil rights litigation to expand voting rights for those convicted of felonies, and I have fought to disrupt criminal recidivism through re-entry support work for formerly incarcerated individuals. In my work as the founding and lead attorney at Trautman-Martin Law, I know how to lead teams of lawyers to achieve phenomenal outcomes for both individuals and the rule of law.
The spotlight on police misconduct and crime are exposing the deep structural injustices, fear, and mistrust that our communities are facing. At this critical time in our County’s and Nation’s history, we need elected officials in our most impactful local offices to truly bring their constituencies along with them, so that our systems can become fairer, more accountable, and dynamic to the moment we are in.
There is a common thread between survivors of crime who feel violated and betrayed, people who experience the criminal legal system as unjust, and people who are overwhelmed by the sometimes crushing bureaucracy in county government. Everyone expects fairness and dignity. Every time we miss that mark, the gap between community and government grows wider. As we rally together to speak to the injustices where the legal system has reduced faith and trust, we must also repair that trust through systems level changes. Fairness, trust, and safety are inseparable.
The following priorities are opportunities where we can acknowledge shortcomings, expect more, and execute the powerful work of repairing and improving our legal system to help shrink that gap between community and government, and create safety through trust.
The criminal justice system was not designed to fix addiction or mental illness. We will not arrest our way out of the social issues that continue to impact all members of our community, (i.e. low level drug, safety and livability crimes) so this requires new approaches that support our neighbors to be better, while not criminalizing behavior that is rooted in illness. Focusing more resources on these lower level crimes actually lessens the County’s ability to more effectively and nimbly prosecute and address violent crime and sexual assault cases.
Survivors of violent crime are sometimes afraid to report crimes. This may be because of low clearance rates, and consequently low trust in the system. Regardless, this perpetuates a culture of violence and further erodes trust in our public systems. By focusing more resources in the Attorney’s Office towards prosecution of violent crime and sexual assault, we will work to protect our most impacted victims, and begin to build trust among those who often feel unrepresented or unheard in our criminal justice system.
Few crimes break trust more than sexual violence. This is an area that remains under-resourced. We have to not only believe women, but take seriously all survivors who have the courage to report domestic and sexual violence.
Restorative justice, when properly implemented, can bring more accountability and more healing to all parties, including those impacted by crime and the perpetrators of crime, resulting in safer and more whole communities for everyone. Our current system often creates more harm than it prevents, shutting out those who have been harmed, and simply pursuing punitive measures rather than supporting true accountability.
Crimes that are solely economic are less enforced. Crimes where employers steal and take advantage of workers are virtually never enforced. It is a simple fact that financial theft against corporations is prosecuted regularly, but less aggressively than theft against our workers, often low income. As chairperson for “Cities Against Wage Theft and Tax Fraud,” I am leading cities in the Metro Area to partner with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and state agencies to bring needed accountability to bad-faith employers, and relief to workers who currently have no advocate, and will continue this work as County Attorney.
Police and prosecutors wield enormous power. This is why their conduct must be above reproach.
The many problems we have tried, and failed, to solve with the criminal justice system need new solutions and approaches, plain and simple. There is an opportunity to utilize more data driven approaches to help eliminate disparities and improve outcomes.