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Mayor Hodges appoints lawyer to investigate Al Flowers arrest

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • August 8, 2014 - 5:27 PM

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Friday that lawyer Donald Lewis, who gave the maximum amount to her 2013 election, will lead what she described as an independent investigation into a police arrest involving activist Al Flowers 

Flowers supporters said they have confidence in Lewis, but criticized the scope of his appointment. Lewis was assigned to examine whether police department policy was vioalated in the late July arrest of Flowers. His attorney, Bobby Joe Champion, said Lewis should be assigned the entire criminal investigation.

“I’m not sure how you bifurcate these things unless you’re trying to get a desired outcome,” said Champion.  "Don Lewis has always been a person of integrity," he added.

Lewis withdrew from a 2001 appointment to head an investigation into City Hall corruption after that arrangement drew criticism because of his political support for then-Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton.

Council members questioned that appointment because of the appearance of impropriety rather than the issue of whether Lewis, an experienced investigator, was qualified.

According to campaign records, Lewis gave $500 in contributions to the Hodges campaign in 2013.  Lewis also gave $250 to mayoral candidate Jackie Cherryhomes. One lawyer in his current firm gave another $125 to Hodges, while another gave $500 to Mark Andrew.

In 2001, he held a fundraiser for Sayles Belton at his law firm, donated to her campaign and had her lawn sign at his south Minneapolis home.

There was no immediate reaction from the mayor's office on the question of whether he could be independent in a probe of the late July arrest of Flowers in an altercation at his home. Lewis deferred questions to the mayor.

Mayoral spokeswoman Kate Brickman said in response to questions about the scope of his duties that “Lewis is a private practice civil law attorney who has been asked to investigate whether the involved officers violated department policy regarding use of force in connection with the arrest.  The chief is considering next steps with respect to a criminal investigation and can provide an update on that probably sometime next week.”

"Mr. Lewis is the right person to conduct this investigaiton," Hodges said in announcing the appointment of Lewis.  "He is a respected leader in the community who I know will be thorough and fair."

Lewis is a Minneapolis lawyer who was dean of the Hamline University law school from 2008 to 2013, and worked as a federal prosecutor. He previously investigated allegations of academic fraud in the University of Minnesota men's basketball program and lead an independent investigation for St. Paul officials into the 2013 landslide at Lilydale Regional Park in which two children died.

(Photo: Attorney Donald Lewis)

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