The Potluck

No charges filed after lawmaker was yanked out of Action 4 Liberty meeting

By: - February 11, 2022 9:58 am

Tony LaLonde confronts state Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, at an Action 4 Liberty event in late January at the Delano American Legion. Screenshot from Rep. Mary Franson video.

No criminal charges will be filed in a case where a Republican state lawmaker was thrown out of a political event in Blaine last month. 

Rep. Nolan West, R-Blaine, was booted from a caucus training event hosted by Action 4 Liberty, a right-wing group that has railed against COVID-19 restrictions and promoted people like Shakopee Republican firebrand Rep. Erik Mortensen.

West told the Pioneer Press he went to the “patriot meetup” at the Blaine VFW because it was billed as open to the public, and he thought he could slip in without being recognized. 

As Action 4 Liberty President Jake Duesenberg shared baseless claims that vaccines don’t work, Shakopee activist Tony LaLonde stopped West at the door, told him politicians weren’t allowed and then forcibly yanked him out of the room and into a hallway. The incident was recorded in the background of a video of Duesenberg speaking and posted on social media. 

West, who was not injured, posted about the incident on Facebook and later decided to seek charges due to the increasingly hostile tenor of politics, he told the Pioneer Press.

However, Blaine City Prosecutor Joe Van Thomme told the Reformer he decided not to file charges at this time because the facts weren’t present that would allow him to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I considered any possible charges,” Thomme said. 

West has not yet responded to a request for comment, and LaLonde hung up when reached for comment.

Thomme said if additional evidence is found, he can always reconsider charges. 

State Rep. Donald Raleigh, R-Circle Pines, told ABC Newspapers in Anoka County that he also attended the event but was not asked to leave. Raleigh said he introduced himself as a state representative and handed out business cards.

According to Raleigh, Duesenberg said they “had to throw out” West because he was an elected official and had posted things “about us” on social media, ABC Newspapers reported.

LaLonde was also accused by state Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, on social media of kicking out Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, and his friends — including two veterans, one in his 80s — out of another Action 4 Liberty event in late January at the Delano American Legion “because he’s an elected official.”

Franson wrote that apparently the only elected official the group supports is Mortensen.

Mortensen later shared a video on Facebook of an  interview he conducted with Wright County Action 4 Liberty organizer Joe Crawford about the Delano incident. Crawford told Mortensen the group is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group and “can’t have a politician involved” who wants people to caucus for him because that would be a conflict of interest.

Crawford said McDonald was politely asked to leave and “was not happy” and “made a stink.” 

“It is open to the public; that doesn’t mean that it’s open to be hijacked by political figures,” Crawford said. “It showed very well what we’re up against. These are people that are used to getting their way.” 

McDonald notified the Wright County sheriff, Crawford said, because he thinks “he’s above the law.” When McDonald refused to leave, Crawford said the organizers called the police. 

McDonald has not yet responded to a request for comment.

West told the Pioneer Press last month he went to the Action 4 Liberty event even though he knew the group was a “confrontational, activist” group, saying when he first ran for office, he got death threats from the left, and now he’s getting attacked by a “crazy right-winger.”

“Always, I try to preach: Let’s be civil,” he told the Pioneer Press. “This kind of thing can’t be tolerated. If politics continues on a course like this, we’re in trouble.”

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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.