Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is declining to intervene in a murder case after the victim's family asked him and Gov. Tim Walz to remove the case from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty following a proposed plea deal that would keep one of the defendants out of prison.
The family of Steven Markey says Moriarty is wrong to offer Husayn Braveheart less than a year in the workhouse and probation for the deadly 2019 carjacking of Markey in Minneapolis. Braveheart was 15 at the time. The other defendant, Jered Ohsman, was 17 and is serving 22 years in prison. Earlier this year, Walz and Ellison removed a murder case from Moriarty over similar objections to a similar plea deal offered to a juvenile offender in a murder case, but Ellison said then that he didn't anticipate making a rare decision like that again. He reiterated that stance in a statement to the Star Tribune.
"I said earlier this year that I did not expect to ask the Governor to any assign future criminal cases from county attorneys to me," Ellison said. "While I am reluctant to say more now because I have not yet had the opportunity to meet in person with the Markey family, that remains my intention today. Ultimately, all elected officials, including county attorneys, are accountable to voters for their decisions."
A spokesperson for Walz said in a statement that he would only consider assigning a case to the attorney general upon request from the AG, "and the governor stands by that process."
The Markey family continues circulating an online petition to stop the plea from happening ahead of Braveheart's sentencing next month. They are furious that probation is on the table after years of being told that prosecutors would seek an appropriate sentence for the slaying of Markey, a 39-year-old paralegal from Plymouth.
Markey was shot in broad daylight June 11, 2019, in northeast Minneapolis. Ohsman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2020 and admitted to firing the fatal shot.
Markey's family says Braveheart, now 20, who is charged with first-degree aggravated robbery and aiding and abetting second-degree murder, orchestrated the carjacking and also shot Markey. They don't understand the disparate treatment of the two suspects. Markey's mother and sister are both attorneys.
"If I can't get justice for my brother, let's be honest. ... I have resources. I understand the system. If I can't get the right outcome for my murdered brother — who was also involved in the legal system — who can?" Susan Markey said.
Ohsman was certified to stand trial as an adult. Meanwhile, Braveheart's case made it all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court over arguments of whether the case should stay in juvenile court. In November, justices ruled he should also be tried as an adult.
The Markeys feel like Moriarty is going against the state's highest court by offering Braveheart probation.
Moriarty has defended her decision by using the science of adolescent brain development and the progress Braveheart has shown in the past four years of being incarcerated.
She wants Braveheart to serve up to one year in the county workhouse with five years of probation. The court could impose the same sentence as Ohsman's if he violates probation.
When news broke of the offer in July, Moriarty in a press conference said Braveheart has been "extraordinarily responsive to the carefully selected treatment." She reiterated that in a statement Monday.
"If we disrupt that progress, we will jeopardize public safety and risk everything when he comes back to the community. We cannot take that risk," Moriarty said.
The plea offer shocked Markey's family. They were informed on a Friday in July ahead of a plea scheduled for the following Monday. They immediately demanded a meeting with Moriarty and requested a continuance.
Prosecutors never filed a motion for a continuance. But District Judge Michael Burns allowed it, noting how upset the family was over the last-minute notification that prevented everyone from attending.
The family is asking Burns to reject the plea agreement at Braveheart's sentencing Oct. 23.
"I do think that it's very unethical," Susan Markey said of the 11th-hour change. "And taking off my lawyer hat and putting on, like, my sister and family hat, it's also just a really, really mean way to treat people. ... It's piling on in a way that's really cruel."
The family has been in touch with the family of Zaria McKeever, who was gunned down in her Brooklyn Park home last November. McKeever's ex-boyfriend is accused of enlisting two teenage brothers, then ages 15 and 17, and the younger one allegedly fired the fatal shots.
Prosecutors wanted the teens to stand trial for second-degree murder as adults. But in February, Moriarty abruptly changed course, offering a plea deal that would spare them a lengthy adult prison sentence.
The older boy accepted the plea, but before the younger brother could do so — and after weeks of mounting pressure by McKeever's family — Ellison asked Walz to intervene. Moriarty then blasted Ellison's intervention, saying state officials undermined her authority by making an "undemocratic" decision that set a dangerous precedent.
The teen's case, which remains confidential in juvenile court, is ongoing.
It's rare for the attorney general to take a case from any county attorney. McKeever was the second time since the 1990s that the governor has reassigned a case.
Susan Markey said in response to Ellison and Walz not stepping in that she is disappointed but not surprised.
"It's horrifying what they are doing to us. The whole thing is shameful. They should be ashamed and embarrassed. They are not worthy of representing the state of Minnesota."