State Rep. John Thompson challenges misdemeanor charge in court

Lawmaker Stopped
This Aug. 21, 2016 photo shows John Thompson, now a state representative, at a fundraiser at Central High School in St. Paul, Minn. Thompson is fighting a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer at a hospital where Thompson was trying to see a family friend.
Scott Takushi | Pioneer Press via AP 2016

Minnesota State Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, is challenging a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer. The case stems from an incident at North Memorial Health Hospital in November 2019, a year before he was elected.

Robbinsdale police arrested Thompson and cited him for trespassing and obstructing the legal process following an argument with hospital staff. A judge later dismissed the trespassing charge. Thompson had tried to visit a family friend who was rushed to the hospital from Faribault following a suicide attempt.

Thompson says hospital staff were disrespectful to his group because they are African American, and he says police escalated the situation. Security guards put the hospital on lockdown during the incident.

It’s rare for people charged with misdemeanors to bring their cases to court, but Thompson says he pleaded not guilty in order to defend himself and his reputation. A jury of five women and two men, including one alternate, began hearing testimony in the case on Friday.

In court, Robbinsdale Police Officer Nichole Saba testified that she had to push the emergency department doors shut to keep Thompson out as he implored hospital staff to allow him to visit the young man who was receiving treatment.

A prosecutor played video from Saba’s body camera that shows Thompson arguing with officers and staff, but Thompson is not seen engaging with anyone physically.

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Robbinsdale Police Sgt. Christopher Woodhall is expected to testify Monday.

Thompson is facing questions over his residency as the result of a more recent run-in with police.

A St. Paul officer pulled over Thompson’s vehicle July 3 and cited him for driving on a suspended license because of unpaid child support. Police say a missing front license plate was the reason for the traffic stop. Thompson says he was racially profiled.

Despite serving as a Minnesota legislator, Thompson presented the officer with a Wisconsin driver’s license, prompting questions about his residency.

Voters on St. Paul’s east side elected Thompson to the legislature in 2020. Thompson became an advocate for police reform after former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Thompson’s friend Philando Castile during a 2016 traffic stop in Falcon Heights. A Ramsey County jury acquitted Yanez the following year.