A trade association representing Minnesota police officers across the state has leveled public criticism at Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty's office, saying prosecutors under-charged a driver after a Maple Grove police officer was dragged and injured during a traffic stop.
One month since the stop that ended with felony fleeing police and obstruction charges against the driver, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association spoke out in objection to prosecutors' refusal to charge the driver with assault on a police officer, which carries a mandatory prison sentence. But the County Attorney's Office countered that evidence shows he intended to flee, not assault the officer.
"This charging decision represents an alarming trend from the HCAO where violent offenders are not charged, or under charged, with crimes," MPPOA General Counsel Imran Ali said in a statement. "Minnesota law has long recognized vehicles being treated as weapons in these types of situations. It is alarming how police officers are treated differently than citizens in the eyes of the HCAO."
Hennepin County Attorney spokesperson Nick Kimball said the evidence didn't warrant filing such charges:
"As any prosecutor or defense attorney understands, we need evidence to support charges and prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately we are unable to rely on false characterizations of the facts by individuals from interest groups who don't have access to all the evidence in the case," Kimball said in a statement. "The evidence here is the defendant fled from officers in a motor vehicle and caused injuries while interfering with the officer's duties. And the office charged him with the most serious charges we were ethically able to charge based on the evidence."
Maple Grove police this week released dash camera video of the Nov. 13 traffic stop after the MPPOA, Minnesota's largest law enforcement association, issued a statement disapproving the lack of assault charges against repeat felon Daniel Edward Rudolph, 40, of St. Louis Park, in connection with the injuries sustained by officer Daniel Gross.
Dash camera video showed Rudolph exiting his vehicle and talking to officers before he sprinted toward the passenger door as Gross chased after him. The two wrestled for about 16 seconds as Rudolph was in the driver's seat before he sped off with Gross' arm pinned in the vehicle. The car traveled 40 yards, according to the MPPOA, before Gross freed himself and rolled to the ground.
A shoulder injury prevented Gross from returning to work for two weeks, according to the MPPOA. He is medically cleared to work but has lingering pain from being dragged.
Prosecutors the next day charged Rudolph with fleeing police and obstructing the legal process. Charges say police stopped him for tinted windows and failing to signal at Weaver Lake Road and 83rd Way in Maple Grove.
Gross during the stop learned that Rudolph's driver's license was suspended and noticed an alcoholic beverage on the floor of the vehicle, charges say. He asked Rudolph to exit and as Gross was patting him down, Rudolph darted back to the vehicle. Another officer fell as the car sped off and Gross was able to get free as the vehicle turned right, charges say. Rudolph was arrested Nov. 14 and released two days later, according to jail logs. His public defender, Setara Barukzoy, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Ali, with MPPOA, said probable cause exists for assault charges against Rudolph, whom the police group contends used the vehicle as a weapon. MPPOA said Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner asked for a review of charges and prosecutors declined to charge Rudolph with assault.
Kimball said that several senior attorneys reviewed the charging decision at Werner's request and came to the same conclusion.
MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters said in a statement to the Star Tribune that Moriarty "has endless sympathy for violent criminals and hostility to cops. The evidence is more than clear: Purposefully dragging an officer 40 yards in a vehicle is clear intent to assault, and it's been charged in other counties. MPPOA will always stand up for our members, the men and women of law enforcement."
The County Attorney's statement said that the office is "grateful the officer in this case escaped the incident with minor injuries."
"We fully recognize and appreciate the potential danger of the defendant's actions and that is why we charged him with two felonies for his conduct."
Rudolph is scheduled to appear back in court next week.