Minnesota county at center of George Floyd protests elects first ever Black sheriff, new top prosecutor

The Minnesota county that was the center of racial justice protests and rioting in the more than two years since George Floyd’s in-custody death elected a new top prosecutor and sheriff on Tuesday. 

Mary Moriarty was elected to replace retiring Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. 

Freeman openly supported Moriarty’s opponent, retired District Judge Martha Holton Dimick, but said he did call Moriarty on Election Night to congratulate her on the victory, FOX 9 Minneapolis reported.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that all top prosecutors at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office supported Dimick in the race, but Freeman assured that he did not expect a mass exodus during the transition period or afterward when he retires after a combined 24 years on the job. 

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"I think the sheriff-elect is a wonderful person; I think she'll do great. And I think Mary will fit right in," Freeman told the Tribune. "The hyperbole that comes out of a political campaign sometimes gets everybody uptight. Now it's time to settle down and get the job done."

Freeman elaborated to FOX 9 about his office and Moriarty’s previous working relationship. Moriarty, the former chief defense counsel for the county, retired from that gig amid a suspension and state board investigation into allegations that she created a "culture of fear" at work.

Moriarty filed a lawsuit, and the case ended in a settlement. 

"The voters in Hennepin County rejected the politics of fear," Moriarty told FOX 9. "The fear part was that we needed to continue to do the same failed policies of the past and so the voters resoundingly rejected that.

"One of the criticisms of Mary is she didn’t get along very well with all of us," Freeman told FOX 9. "And that’s true. She’d pick fights with me, she’d pick fights with the chief judge, she’d pick fights with the county administrator; she’d pick fights with people in charge of the public defense system. It’s not my style, but she has a chance and a job that requires even more cooperation. She’s a smart person she knows she’s got to do that."

In the sheriff’s race, Dawanna Witt won by an overwhelming 64% of the vote compared to opponent Joseph Banks, who garnered 36%, according to KARE. Witt and Banks are both Black, meaning before the votes were counted, Hennepin County was to elect its first Black sheriff since the office's conception in 1852.

"It's been a journey and I'm so honored and blessed to have the people in my corner who believed in me from day one and people who knew I would be in this position before I even did," Witt told supporters during a speech at her victory party on Tuesday night. She will place outgoing Sheriff David Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson did not seek re-election after pleading guilty in December 2021 to DWI after a rollover crash on the interstate. The Tribune reported that he went on unspecified medical leave in May, and his peace officer license is to be suspended at the end of November for 30 days in connection to the crash. 

The crash happened amid added scrutiny on law enforcement in the region during the manslaughter trial for former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter for the deadly shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April 2021. The incident sparked rioting amid the state trial for Derek Chauvin. 


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The Minnesota county that was the center of racial justice protests and rioting in the more than two years since George Floyd’s in-custody death elected a new top prosecutor and sheriff on Tuesday. 

Mary Moriarty was elected to replace retiring Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. 

Freeman openly supported Moriarty’s opponent, retired District Judge Martha Holton Dimick, but said he did call Moriarty on Election Night to congratulate her on the victory, FOX 9 Minneapolis reported.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that all top prosecutors at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office supported Dimick in the race, but Freeman assured that he did not expect a mass exodus during the transition period or afterward when he retires after a combined 24 years on the job. 

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"I think the sheriff-elect is a wonderful person; I think she'll do great. And I think Mary will fit right in," Freeman told the Tribune. "The hyperbole that comes out of a political campaign sometimes gets everybody uptight. Now it's time to settle down and get the job done."

Freeman elaborated to FOX 9 about his office and Moriarty’s previous working relationship. Moriarty, the former chief defense counsel for the county, retired from that gig amid a suspension and state board investigation into allegations that she created a "culture of fear" at work.

Moriarty filed a lawsuit, and the case ended in a settlement. 

"The voters in Hennepin County rejected the politics of fear," Moriarty told FOX 9. "The fear part was that we needed to continue to do the same failed policies of the past and so the voters resoundingly rejected that.

"One of the criticisms of Mary is she didn’t get along very well with all of us," Freeman told FOX 9. "And that’s true. She’d pick fights with me, she’d pick fights with the chief judge, she’d pick fights with the county administrator; she’d pick fights with people in charge of the public defense system. It’s not my style, but she has a chance and a job that requires even more cooperation. She’s a smart person she knows she’s got to do that."

In the sheriff’s race, Dawanna Witt won by an overwhelming 64% of the vote compared to opponent Joseph Banks, who garnered 36%, according to KARE. Witt and Banks are both Black, meaning before the votes were counted, Hennepin County was to elect its first Black sheriff since the office's conception in 1852.

"It's been a journey and I'm so honored and blessed to have the people in my corner who believed in me from day one and people who knew I would be in this position before I even did," Witt told supporters during a speech at her victory party on Tuesday night. She will place outgoing Sheriff David Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson did not seek re-election after pleading guilty in December 2021 to DWI after a rollover crash on the interstate. The Tribune reported that he went on unspecified medical leave in May, and his peace officer license is to be suspended at the end of November for 30 days in connection to the crash. 

The crash happened amid added scrutiny on law enforcement in the region during the manslaughter trial for former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter for the deadly shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April 2021. The incident sparked rioting amid the state trial for Derek Chauvin. 

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