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Minnesota ethics committee to consider how to deal with senator accused of burglary

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Senate ethics committee is expected to begin considering Tuesday what to do with a lawmaker charged with burglary for allegedly breaking into her ex-mother-in-law’s home .

Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell of Woodbury told police she broke in last month because her stepmother refused to give her items of sentimental value from her late father, including his ashes, according to the felony complaint. Her lawyer said she deserved due process and would not resign.

Mitchell’s status has posed a dilemma for his fellow Democrats, as they hold a one-seat majority in the Senate and therefore need his vote to pass anything that lacks bipartisan support. They excluded her from caucus meetings and removed her from her committees, but did not publicly ask her to resign.

Mitchell resumed voting last week in the Senate, even on votes that affect his fate. Senate Republicans have forced hours of debate on failed attempts to impeach her, slowing the pace of passing legislation as the May 20 adjournment deadline approaches.

The Senate Republican’s complaint alleges that his actions “betray the public trust and bring dishonor and discredit to the Senate.”

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks, who has called for Mitchell to resign, told reporters last week that she deserves due process in court. But, he added, the Senate should hold lawmakers to higher standards, even if it proves politically difficult. He said it’s not right for Democrats to protect her because they need her vote.

“This is a serious accusation and I hope the ethics committee takes it very seriously,” Johnson said.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy of St. Paul told reporters last week that her caucus had not asked Mitchell to resign.

“We do not know all the facts about this case. This is both a serious matter and for many of us a heartbreaking matter,” Murphy told reporters. “Sen. Mitchell is entitled to due process, both here in the Ethics Subcommittee and in court. And she has some tough, serious conversations she needs to have with her family and her constituents.

Johnson said he expects the panel to discuss whether there is probable cause to investigate further. He said he expects them to look into police reports, her comments on social media and an interview the stepmother gave to KSTP-TV in which she said she was afraid of Mitchell and disputed the senator’s assertion that she was there to keep a watchful eye on her. -be. But there probably won’t be a decision on his fate Tuesday, Johnson said.

The ethics committee is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. If there is no deadlock in the event of a tie, he could ultimately recommend anything from a reprimand to expulsion.

No Senate seats would normally be at stake in November. But Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin recently said he would like Mitchell to resign by June 8 so his seat can be filled in a special election on Election Day. Mitchell represents a predominantly Democratic suburban St. Paul district that would be easier for Democrats to hold if he appeared on the November ballot, when turnout is expected to be high.

Mitchell’s next court date is set for June 10.

Before the Ethics Committee considers Mitchell’s case, it is expected to examine a long-pending complaint filed by Democrats last year against Republican Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, of Glencoe. He sent an email to colleagues during a debate on trans rights in the 2023 session that included a link to a medical school video showing gender transition surgery. It included a note saying it documented “mutilating transgender surgeries on minor children.” Extremely graphic and disturbing.