With her victim’s blessing, a judge has cleared the felony record of a 22-year-old Minneapolis woman who brutally assaulted a former Minnesota politician with a steel baton five years ago at the Mall of America.
Mark Andrew, the former chair of the Hennepin County Board and past chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party, had urged Judge Juan G. Hoyos to support the expungement sought by Deea Elliott. At a court hearing in March, Andrew cited Elliot’s concerns that her criminal record made it difficult for her to get a good job. A prosecutor had earlier opposed the expungement.
In his decision, Hoyos wrote that Elliott had successfully completed probation and “had great potential for rehabilitation.” He also said that the expungement would help her pursue education, employment, housing and other necessities. While Hoyos cited Andrew’s suggestion that she pursue her education, he did not say he was influenced by Andrew’s recommendation. Elliott, however, gave a lot of credit to Andrew.
“I feel really relieved and very thankful,” she said Thursday. “I think he made a big difference … speaking on my behalf.”
Andrew and Elliott hugged outside the courtroom in March after he asked the judge to override the prosecutors’ concerns and grant expungement.
Andrew applauded the decision this week, saying it “gives this young woman a chance at life.”
The prosecutor, Andrew Loose, said he did not plan to appeal the expungement order.
“I hope she takes this opportunity to do what Mr. Andrew recommended in court, which is to continue to further her education and that she never comes back into the system,” Loose said.
The prosecution was handled by the Anoka County Attorney’s Office to avoid a conflict of interest by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who supported Andrew in his unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Minneapolis. The assault occurred in December 2013, a month after Andrew was defeated by Betsy Hodges.
Hoyos is a Hennepin County judge.
Andrew was seated at a Starbucks with his iPhone on a table in front of him when a teenage boy rushed in, grabbed the phone and ran out. Andrew ran after him, but when he reached the door, Lataija Shapree-Cain, then 18, blocked his path. As he wrestled with her, Elliott, who was 17, joined the fray, pulled a folded steel baton from her purse and began hitting him. All three were arrested. Elliott and Cutler-Cain were charged with felony assault and the juvenile was also charged. Elliott pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated robbery. At Elliott’s sentencing Andrew urged she not be sent to prison even though he suffered extensive injuries from the attack. She was put on probation.
Elliott said Thursday she has certification as a nurse’s assistant. “Now that I have the expungement, I can pursue getting in that field,” she said.
Andrew said he has a meeting scheduled Monday with an official at the state Department of Corrections to discuss possible legislation or rule changes that would make it easier to expunge the criminal records of offenders who have little risk of violent offenses in the future.