MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Federal grand jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict after five days of deliberation in the case of a Minneapolis officer accused of assaulting at least four people in two separate bar fights in downtown Minneapolis.
The United States Attorney’s Office says Officer Michael Griffin was cleared of six of nine total counts of deprivation of civil rights Tuesday afternoon.
He was off duty on both occasions when he allegedly started the fights, according to court documents. He is also accused of filing false paperwork and lying at trial.
Grffin’s attorney, Robert Richman, says his client is ready to put the case behind him.
“It was very emotional and he was extremely relieved and happy,” Richman said.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case involving the now-closed Envy Nightclub in May of 2010, but Griffin was found not guilty in a case involving The Loop bar in November of 2011.
Richman called the prosecution witnesses unreliable, and said they lied at times.
“We argued that the jury should not put credence in their testimony, some of which was fabricated in order to create a civil suit against the city of Minneapolis, and the jury agreed with us,” Richman said.
Attorney Paul Applebaum civilly sued Griffin over the same case and won on behalf of his clients. The city of Minneapolis had to pay more than $150,000.
“Mine was a civil trial and the burden of proof is much lower in a civil trial than it is in a criminal trial, and that’s very appropriate,” Applebaum said. “In a civil trial, all I have to do is prove or convince the jury 51/49 that my claims have been substantiated. In a criminal trial, it’s a vastly more difficult burden for the prosecutor or the government to overcome so there job was much tougher than mine was.”
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger says his office hoped for a different outcome.
“We strongly believe that this case needed to be brought before a Court, publicly tried, and decided by a jury,” Luger said. “Our office is reviewing its options as to those remaining counts of the indictment upon which the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau released a statement about the verdict late Tuesday afternoon.
“It is unfortunate that this case has been a distraction from the excellent public safety service our officers deliver on a daily basis,” Harteau said.
Throughout the process, the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation stood behind Griffin.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the jury’s verdict,” said Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll. “Officer Griffin has been vindicated and the truth rules the day. The city has a duty to stop their witch hunt of Officer Griffin after multiple internal affairs investigations and jury verdicts. We expect to see Officer Griffin back to work serving the community and the city to reimburse him for his legal expenses.”
Griffin has been the subject of 22 internal affairs investigations, most of which were dismissed.
The city of Minneapolis has paid more than $400,000 in civil lawsuits over the incidents.