Rape case dismissed after Hennepin County prosecutor admits misconduct

The Hennepin County Courthouse
A rape case was dismissed after a Hennepin County unnamed prosecutor admitted misconduct.
AP Photo | Christian Monterrosa

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty announced Monday that her office was dropping charges against a 35-year-old man accused of raping his 14-year old cousin after a prosecutor on the case reportedly lied to the judge. 

Moriarty said at a press conference the prosecutor trying the case admitted to intentionally lying to the judge about the contents of a note that a victim’s advocate passed to her during the trial. 

“The public rightly holds us to the highest expectations and this conduct is an extraordinary breach of the public trust,” Moriarty said. “This conduct falls well below the most basic expectations of professional conduct.”

Charges were filed against the man last March. He’d been staying with the girl’s family in north Minneapolis in the summer of 2019 when the alleged assault occurred.

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The girl told investigators that her family was out of the home when she said the man entered her room and raped her. The girl’s family only learned about the assault in 2021 from a family friend.

Moriarty said at the press conference that prosecutors learning of the alleged misconduct came to the conclusion that “we can’t go forward in this prosecution.” The prosecutor asked the victim’s advocate to change the note she passed to the prosecutor “to conform with the lie that she had told the court.” 

“This is a very serious offense, that’s why it’s our obligation to maintain high ethical standards,” Moriarty said. “We can’t be in the position of having to dismiss a serious crime like this because of our own conduct.”  

The now-17-year-old victim testified at the trial. Moriarty said prosecutors had few options after the defense declined to join in their motion for a mistrial.  

“That victim, that young woman, was deeply courageous in testifying in this case,” Moriarty said. “I’m deeply disappointed that we can’t go forward in this prosecution.” 

The man was ordered released by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill on Friday. 

Catherine McEnroe was lead prosecutor on the case but the county attorney’s office did not name the prosecutor who admitted to misconduct. Moriarty said the involved prosecutor is not handling cases, but declined to say more, saying there’s a pending personnel investigation. 

It was the first press conference held by Moriarty since taking office. She succeeds Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who served in the office for almost two and a half decades.