Politics and Government

Minnesota Sen. Mitchell insists she won’t resign as demands for answers about arrest grow

An empty desk in the senate room
Senator Nicole Mitchell’s empty seat is pictured after a session at the Capitol in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated 2:20 p.m.

Sen. Nicole Mitchell steered clear of the Capitol again Thursday as colleagues wrestled with how to deal with the Democratic lawmaker’s legal troubles.

Mitchell issued a new statement saying a criminal complaint she faces in an alleged home invasion is incomplete, and she insisted she would not resign.

Profile image of Nicole Mitchell
Minnesota Sen. Nicole Mitchell
Minnesota State Senate

“I am confident that a much different picture will emerge when all of the facts are known,” Mitchell said in a statement issued through her attorney. “I am as committed to my constituents today as the day I was elected, including important work for veterans and children, and I do not intend to resign."

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz offered his initial comments on her status as a lawmaker, saying he’s reserving judgment pending additional information due soon. Senate Republicans exerted more pressure for a swift ethics investigation, using procedural motions to demonstrate how a 33-33 Senate would go if GOP requests weren’t met.

“(We’re) letting them know that we mean business,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson said after a brief floor session Thursday in which one DFL motion was defeated and another passed only after he offered up his own vote in favor.

Johnson added, “We want to see action, what’s happening with Senator Mitchell, are we going to have an ethics complaint or an ethics hearing, really soon, to know what we can be doing here in the Minnesota Senate to lift this cloud that’s over us right now.”

Republicans want an expedited investigation. Democrats say the probe should move forward at a standard pace.

A close-up of a senator's name plate
Senator Nicole Mitchell’s empty seat is pictured after a session at the Capitol in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, said he didn’t know where Mitchell was as the Senate was in session on Thursday and wasn’t sure when she would return to the Capitol.

He said DFL lawmakers planned to meet Friday and Saturday to discuss a path forward and was hopeful that budget and policy bills would be able to advance in the final weeks of session.

“I think everyone in the Senate hopes that we’ll continue to do the people’s business as we go forward, that we will wrap up things in a way that makes the people glad that we did our work and that we’ll be out of here by May 20,” Frentz said.

Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy has said Mitchell’s ability to vote would be decided day by day. Murphy said members of the Senate Ethics Committee were in discussions with Mitchell about when to schedule an initial hearing inside the 30-day window for consideration of the complaint.

Mitchell hasn’t been seen since her release from custody in Detroit Lakes, where she was arrested Monday and later charged with burglary in an alleged home break-in. She has disputed criminal activity and suggested a family dispute was at the root of the incident.

The new statement issued Thursday said that while she “cannot elaborate more at the advice of counsel, I can say I am extremely disappointed that the complaint lacks the complete information of the incident including important context, including that I have known the other person involved in this incident since I was four and care deeply about her.”

She said she is saddened people have used her “tragic family situation to score political points.”

The exterior of a home
The Detroit Lakes home where Minnesota Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, was arrested early on the morning of Monday. She was later charged with first degree burglary. Mitchell told investigators she was trying to retrieve items belonging to her late father after her stepmother had ceased communicating with her.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

A redacted 911 call released Wednesday revealed the confusion at the home of Mitchell’s stepmother – where her father lived before his 2023 death. The call from the homeowner was placed before 5 a.m. Monday. Officers arrived within a few minutes.

She told a dispatcher that the person who broke in had retreated to the basement after she “tripped over ‘em” on the floor next to her bed. She referred to the intruder with male pronouns throughout the call.

“I don’t know if he’s breaking out the back window or what,” the woman said, according to the transcript. At another point, she said, “I don’t know what the hell is going on. My God.”

She was advised to stay put as officers searched the basement.

“Make yourself known!” an officer was heard to say in the background as the call came to an end.

A separate dispatch log from the Becker County Sheriff’s Office indicated the officers had detained Nicole Mitchell by 4:52 a.m. and she was placed under arrest less than an hour later.

At a bridge project groundbreaking in Austin on Thursday, Walz was asked if he wanted his fellow DFLer to resign. He said it was “troubling” and it raised “very serious questions” to which he wants answers soon.

“I think it’s deeply concerning in this and reminding folks it’s a family tragedy but there was an individual involved in this that had her home violated,” Walz said. “We’ll see how all that information comes out.”

If Mitchell can’t be part of the Legislature’s final month, the Senate would be split 33 to 33 among Democrats and Republicans. 

The Senate stands adjourned until Monday, when there would be three weeks remaining before the session reaches its ultimate deadline.

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