The Potluck

Hennepin County chief public defender resigns amid tax evasion investigation

By: - October 17, 2022 3:06 pm

Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Kassius Benson at a meeting of the Board of Public Defense on Sept. 13, 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Kassius Benson turned in his letter of resignation on Monday as he faces a federal investigation for tax evasion.

In a letter to State Public Defender Bill Ward that he shared with staff, Benson cited “personal issues involving matters outside of my position.”

The resignation is effective Oct. 24, but he said he would be taking personal time off until then.

Benson took the helm of the public defender’s office in Hennepin County less than two years ago, where he oversaw about 120 attorneys and 70 support staff. Before that, he ran a private law firm, which is the subject of the federal investigation.

According to court documents the Star Tribune first reported in August, Benson allegedly withheld payroll taxes from his employees but didn’t turn over the money to the government.

Benson not respond to a request for comment. Ward also did not return a request for comment.

Ward told the Star Tribune he was not aware of the investigation when Benson was hired.

Benson previously faced criticism for continuing to do work for private clients while overseeing the public defender’s office in Hennepin County.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.