Last month, I wrote to many of you because you had contacted our office about our handling of the Chrishaun McDonald case. I want to update you now on significant actions around that case.
Recently, the Washington County Attorney’s Office charged Molly Shannon Flaherty with one count of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and one count of third-degree assault-substantial bodily harm for attacking Ms. McDonald on June 5, 2011 outside the Schooner bar.
As I mentioned several times during the months leading up to Ms. McDonald’s trial, we immediately sent the case to Washington County because it would have been a conflict of interest if we had charged the case against Ms. Flaherty at the same time we had charged the homicide case against Ms. McDonald. Washington County Attorney Peter Orput stated after the charges were filed May 11 that he would have filed the charges last summer, but he needed to talk to Ms. McDonald and get her medical records. Ms. McDonald’s lawyers were afraid that information could be used against her in the murder case and advised her not to cooperate with Mr. Orput, a position both we and Mr. Orput understand and respect. It is my understanding that Ms. McDonald’s attorneys no longer have this concern and Ms. McDonald is helping put together a strong case against Ms. Flaherty.
As you probably know, we entered into a plea agreement with Ms. McDonald that dropped the charge from second-degree murder to second-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of an unarmed victim. Instead of facing a possible sentence of 27 years in prison if convicted, Ms. McDonald will be sentenced to 41 months, and with time served and good behavior, she should be released in just over two years. We agreed to this negotiated resolution because we thought it served justice for the family of the stabbing victim, but also was appropriate for Ms. McDonald.
I want to reiterate, our role as prosecutors is to examine the facts provided by police investigators and determine if there is sufficient admissible evidence to bring a charge. It is our mission to serve justice and public safety. Gender, race, sexual orientation and class are not part of the decision-making process. That is how we handled Ms. McDonald’s case from beginning to end. That is how we try to serve in every case we review. We cannot, and do not, let popular opinion determine how we handle cases.
However, it is important that we fully serve all members of our community and, therefore, we do listen to the comments and concerns about the justice system. We understand that some in the LGBTQ community may continue to disagree with the way we handled the McDonald case and that is their right. However, I renew my pledge to continue to work with all our residents to make this office receptive to your concerns. We know Hennepin County has a large LGBTQ community and it is our duty to make sure your voice is heard so that safety and justice is achieved for all.