Minnesota public defender suspended over ‘culture of fear’
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota has suspended one of its chief public defenders following allegations that she used inappropriate language and fostered a culture of fear.
Mary Moriarty, the chief public defender in Hennepin County including Minneapolis, said she received a letter about her suspension Monday and doesn’t know when she’ll be back.
“If somebody is claiming there’s a culture of fear, that’s something that should be addressed immediately, I would think,” Moriarty said. “Nobody had ever had a conversation with me that there were any concerns of this nature.”
Moriarty said the Minnesota Board of Public Defense said her suspension was in part due to what was discussed with her at a recent board hearing, during which she was accused of fostering a culture of fear, being inflexible, and using inappropriate language. She said she was surprised by the allegations
State Public Defender William Ward said Moriarty was on paid leave effective Monday “pending a review of issues that have been brought to the attention of members of the Board of Public Defense.”
Moriarty has spent decades working as a public defender, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. In a post on the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office website, Moriarty said public defenders “need to seize this unprecedented moment in history to end mass incarceration practices by forcing our communities to see the humanity in our clients.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who represented Minneapolis in Congress, said in a tweet Tuesday that Moriarty is “one of the most principled people I know. I’m concerned about her treatment; it appears connected to her advocacy for racial justice.”