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Minnesota Senate panel considering Sen. Nicole Mitchell complaint further delays action

Ethics hearing for Minnesota senator delayed for second time
Ethics hearing for Minnesota senator delayed for second time 02:09

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota Senate ethics panel once again delayed taking action on a complaint against DFL Sen. Nicole Mitchell, who is accused of breaking into a relative's home earlier this year.

Mitchell is charged with first-degree burglary for allegedly entering her stepmother's home illegally in April to retrieve her late father's ashes and other items, according to the criminal complaint. 

Mitchell denies wrongdoing and insists she was trying to check on a loved one who had a health concern.

Last month, the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct considered an ethics complaint alleging Mitchell violated Senate rules, betrayed the public trust and brought the chamber into "dishonor or disrepute" because of those allegations and her comments disputing the details laid out by police in the criminal complaint.

Ultimately, the four-member panel of Republicans and Democrats delayed action on the complaint pending her next court appearance, which was initially scheduled for June 10 but has since been postponed to July 1.

They pressed pause again Wednesday, voting to defer action because of the changed date for her court hearing. Now they will meet on July 25.

Mitchell's attorney sent a letter to the panel saying there would be no new information to present relevant to the ethics complaint.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr., her counsel, told the members Wednesday that there likely won't be any new details in that omnibus hearing in her case in July either, and he anticipates there won't be a final judgment for several months.

"I defer to this subcommittee as to how it does its business, but in terms of actionable information about development of the case, it's unlikely to occur by that point," Ringstrom said about scheduling another ethics subcommittee meeting next month.  

Climate Education Secondary Students
Minnesota Sen. Nicole Mitchell speaks to the Minnesota Youth Council, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in St. Paul, Minn. Abbie Parr / AP

Republicans are awaiting a ruling from a judge that could authorize the release of the body camera and dash-cam footage from police officers who responded to the report of the burglary.

The subcommittee agreed to come back sooner if there is any new information that could inform their decision on how to proceed with the complaint. If they move forward, there will be an investigation.  

"I think it will give a new perspective that will be relevant to the ethics committee," said Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton. "I believe the judge has a timeline of when the judge rules on that case. We still might not have that ruling by the July 25 hearing but we're giving ourselves the opportunity to continue to weigh that."

GOP Senators filed the ethics complaint and have also pushed for her to resign. At one point this session, they also sought to expel Mitchell from the chamber.

But in recent weeks, political pressure began mounting from her party to step down. Gov. Tim Walz and DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said she should resign, though her attorney said she intends to stay in office as her criminal case proceeds. 

Mitchell was removed from her committee assignments and caucus meetings but remained the key vote for Democrats to pass their agenda in the latest legislative session with their one-seat majority, including many last-minute end-of-session bills.

Mitchell, who has also been a TV meteorologist and a commander with the Air National Guard, was elected in 2022 and is in her first term.

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