Retiring Hennepin County attorney says Minneapolis police lied about Jaleel Stallings case

Freeman calls the case ‘justice run amok’ but never alerted defense to officer credibility issues  

By: - December 22, 2022 6:00 am

Screen shot from parking lot surveillance video showing Jaleel Stallings fire back at Minneapolis police officers before he realized they were cops.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says he erred in prosecuting Jaleel Stallings, a St. Paul man who fired back after a Minneapolis SWAT team in an unmarked van hit him with a plastic bullet in the days after George Floyd’s police murder. 

Stallings quickly surrendered when he realized the shooters were police, and though unarmed and prone on the ground, officers beat him up anyway, fracturing his eye socket. 

A jury acquitted the Army veteran of eight crimes, including attempted murder. But that was long after he was painted as a would-be cop killer by Freeman and Minneapolis police. Stallings claimed self-defense, saying he didn’t know the men firing at him from a darkened white van at night were cops.

Freeman — who is retiring in January after 24 years in the office — recently told FOX9 the prosecution was a mistake, but blamed the Minneapolis police officers.

“Frankly, the police lied to us,” he told FOX9. “And we charged it based on their representations and what they said happened and their reports. And they lied. And when we found out that at least some of the evidence wasn’t as they said it was, we reduced the charge considerably, but we didn’t reduce enough. We should have dropped it. In retrospect, that’s when we made a mistake.”

Freeman called the case “a terrible example of justice run amok.”

“Police kicked Stallings in the face,” he said. “They didn’t need to do that.”

But it’s unclear why Freeman didn’t know that before he decided to go ahead and try Stallings — the evidence was on video. 

And if, as Freeman says, prosecutors learned the officers lied about the incident, the prosecutor would be required to tell the defense. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors must inform the defense of officers’ credibility issues or past misconduct.  

Stallings’ attorney, Eric Rice, said prosecutors didn’t do so, despite his repeated requests for Brady material or other exculpatory information, particularly with regard to the officers’ credibility.

Rice raised questions about the officers’ credibility with prosecutors and in pretrial briefs, filing more than 90 pages about contradictions between the officers’ stories and body camera videos. 

Despite Freeman’s claims, the prosecution opposed Rice’s arguments at the time. A judge found prosecutors misrepresented Stallings’ arrest, but decided credibility issues over the officers’ version of the incident should be left to the jury to decide.

Not only did prosecutors fail to turn over any evidence that officers lied, they put the officers on the stand during Stallings’ trial.

“I would have expected that the state would not have called the officers to potentially provide false information at trial or would have addressed the issue during the officers’ testimony,” Rice said. “Had the state reported that officers had lied, I would have used that information to impeach the officers. I was denied that opportunity.”

Contrary to Freeman’s claim, the charges against Stallings were never reduced. He was still facing the original eight charges when he went on trial. He was offered a deal of nearly 13 years in prison if he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder. He opted to go to trial instead.

The officers — who are now under state and federal investigation for their actions — continued to do police work after the trial, even though Freeman now claims they lied about the Stallings case. 

Two of them were part of a SWAT team raid that resulted in the police killing of Amir Locke while they looked for a St. Paul murder suspect. 

Rice questions whether prosecutors have alerted defense attorneys in other cases that the officers lied in Stallings’ case — as required by Brady.

Freeman and his prosecutors didn’t accept that the officers were being untruthful until after Stallings was acquitted and the public got to see the body camera videos, Rice said.

“I find it disingenuous that Mr. Freeman now comes and claims that his office was aware of and tried to remedy the false information,” he said. “That is not consistent with my experience talking with the prosecutor or defending Mr. Stallings.”

Freeman “respectfully declined” to comment for the Reformer, which first reported on Stallings’ acquittal.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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