Attorney Bob Bennett, Diversity hire, Judge Katherine Quaintenance, Justine Damond, Matthew Harrity, Mohamed Noor, police incompetence, Prosecutor Amy Sweasy
Mohamed Noor, on June 7. 2019, was sentenced to 150 months–12.5 years–in the murder of Justine Damond. The sentence is in the middle of the sentencing range under Minnesota law, which specifies up to 188 months. Before we deal with the sentencing hearing, a prelude from Fox News:
Attorneys for a Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder after he shot and killed an unarmed woman who had called 911 asked a judge Thursday to forgo a prison sentence in lieu of an unusual arrangement: they propose he’d report to jail for a week each year on the woman’s birthday and the anniversary of her death.
To which rational people respond: “what the…?!”
This sentence honors the memory of Ms. Rusczcyk and allows Mr. Noor to continue to serve the city,” Mohamed Noor’s defense attorneys, Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold, wrote in their motion ahead of the sentencing scheduled for Friday in the murder of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. “Just as importantly, it mandates that Mr. Noor will continue to consider his action and the great loss they caused.
Noor’s attorney’s were not entirely ludicrous. They also said Noor should do this in addition to probation. Big of them. To be fair, that’s their job, but it was no less inappropriate, no less destructive to the rule of law, for that duty.
As is expected in such cases, Judge Katherine Quaintance received some 44 letters of support for Noor, begging lenience. The letters reportedly contained the usual “walks old ladies across the street,” and “is nice to small animals,” sorts of comments. MPR reports:
A prison sentence would not be best for Mr. Noor and society,’ defense attorneys wrote in the filing. ‘Mr. Noor is a young man who came to this country in his early childhood years and has worked continuously to be a good citizen and a person that gives back to the community.’
Noor’s former supervisor when he was stationed in the Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct, Lt. Dan May, also wrote the court on Noor’s behalf. As an officer who was also involved in a fatal shooting, May said he understands the emotional and physical suffering it can cause for an officer, which May described as ‘punitive.’ In 1990, May shot 17-year-old Tycel Nelson; a grand jury later cleared him of criminal charges.
May said that he was in constant communication with Noor between the July 2017 shooting and his trial.
‘We never spoke once about the details of the shooting, but we spoke at lengths about the anguish he feels for causing the Damond family so much pain,’ May wrote. ‘We also spoke of how much Mo and his family have suffered since the Damond incident as well.
Judge Quaintance was not impressed with such arguments, nor, according to her, was the jury. More on this shortly.
Noor’s attorneys also ask the judge to order him to turn himself in at the workhouse for a week on the dates of Ruszczyk’s birth and her death every year for as long as he’s on probation: ‘This sentence honors the memory of Ms. Ruszczyk and allows Mr. Noor to continue to serve the city.
One might be forgiven for thinking little of Mohamed Noor’s efforts to honor the memory of Justine Damond, or to “continue to serve the city.” He has “served” quite enough. In fact, the jurors asked of the judge why the police are more concerned with protecting themselves than the public they are supposed to serve.
As regular readers know, I’ve relied on Powerline’s Scott Johnson, who attended the entire trial and provided excellent analysis. In the second of three articles, he wrote:
Before imposing sentence, however, Judge Quaintance lowered the boom on Noor on the Minneapolis Police Department. In doing so, she took on the voice of the community as expressed by the jury to her following the verdict. How could the police do what they did in this case? Change is needed. How can officers have acted in such blatant disregard of their duty to serve and protect? Why was there so much discussion of police ambushes at trial? What about the motto embossed on Minneapolis police squad cars — ‘To protect with courage, to serve with compassion’?
Judge Quaintance commented: ‘The jurors’ questions remain unanswered….jurors and the people of Minneapolis deserve answers.
The third article contains video of many of the victim impact statements, Noor’s statement, and the Judge’s pronouncement of sentence. By all means, see them all, but particularly the judge’s, which is precisely the kind of message all judges should deliver. Johnson adds vital detail:
Justine’s mother had died of cancer and her father remarried. Missing from this array are of videos are the statements from Justine’s father and stepmother, read to the court by Bob Bennett (the family attorney in the civil lawsuit against the city and the department), and the statements from Justine’s brother Jason and sister-in-law Katarina, read to the court by staff from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
Also missing from this array is the video of Justine’s friends and family played by the prosecution. Bob Bennett told me on the way out of court that the video had been prepared for his use in the civil lawsuit.
What we had in every one of these statements was grief naked, undimmed, unadulterated, unassimilated. Justine’s stepmother put it this way: ‘Our sentence is for life.’
Anyone seeing those statements could not help but be enraged by Noor, and his attorney’s faux concern for Justine Damond, her memory, and the welfare of the public.
Judge Quaintance had been visibly moved by the victim impact statements, but she took the bench with a written statement to which she hewed. At the conclusion of the two-hour hearing she had her say. Judge Quaintance’s rendition of the jurors’ questions following their service on the case is left hanging in the air.
Johnson had kind words for the lead prosecutor, words apparently well deserved:
Prosecutor Amy Sweasy was outstanding. She urged the judge to reject the pleas for dispositional or durational departure in sentencing. At least two of the family statements thanked her for her work on the case. It is in the nature of things that Ms. Sweasy will never get the thanks or the recognition she deserves. She was a force of nature taking on the system to assure that justice was done in this case. Those of us for whom this case is a local story owe her a profound debt of gratitude.
The Star-Tribune also adds detail. This is Judge Quaintance quoting from the pre-sentencing report:
Mr. Noor has not acknowledged that he incorrectly assessed the situation, rather, he states in the pre-sentence investigation that he had pure intentions and, quote, ‘Deep down I felt I was justified,’ end quote,’ the judge said.
As the evidence has revealed, so do a great many Minneapolis officers, including the hapless and incompetent Matthew Harrity:
Forty-four community members and Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency, citing his good standing in the community.
‘I know the emotional struggles he is dealing with as am I,’ Harrity wrote. ‘Noor has a good heart and the pain and suffering from that night are going to follow him for the rest of his life, which seems to be a pretty large punishment in itself.’
‘I ask you to please take in consideration the humility it takes to be a police officer in today’s world, and the fact that Noor and his family have already suffered and will continue to do so.
What an extraordinary lack of self-awareness. But Noor takes the cake in that regard:
Noor spoke in a strained voice when given an opportunity to address the court, saying he wanted to meet with Damond’s family to explain what occurred that night and to apologize.
‘The system is dehumanizing,’ he said of the courts.
Well Mr. Noor, when you murder someone, the system isn’t supposed to hand out lollipops and ask if you need a safe space and fluffy puppies to pet. I rather doubt he felt that way when he was jailing people.
I do have sympathy for Noor’s family, but none for him. I have less for any Minneapolis police officer–for any police officer anywhere–that thinks Noor deserving of mercy or who thinks his conviction and sentence set a bad precedent for the police. I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks this case had anything to do with race, or antipathy toward Muslims. Such people are race hustlers, Islamists and sociopaths.
According to the Judge–again, take the link and see her pronouncement of sentence–the jury was appalled by the actions not only of Noor and Harrity, but by the MPD and the BCA. They wanted to know if the incompetence and sheer disregard for the safety of the public both agencies demonstrated in this case was the norm. They wanted to know if MPD and BCA supervisors–I’m sure they’re thinking of Sgt. Shannon Barnett–will face discipline and whether any changes will be made. They, and the Judge, were outraged by the continual excuse of a possible ambush; they didn’t buy that for a second, and were plainly insulted by it.
They were upset by Harrity’s insistence nothing was more important to him, nothing should be more important to any police officer, than going home unharmed every night.
Every police officer, in their basic training, and in continuing training, is told in stark terms what can happen to them if they harm others without just cause. They know–it is continually pounded into them–that if they unlawfully kill someone, they’re toast, and they should be. They must be.
Yes, the job is damned difficult. They’re expected to make 100% correct decisions under stresses most people can’t imagine, and there are consequences for being wrong. Yes, officers should be given the benefit of the doubt whenever reasonably possible,but not in this case. Not when a diversity hire, scared out of his mind, shot and killed an innocent woman, because he and his feckless partner were “spooked.” No reasonable, competent, professional, police officer could, given the circumstances of that night, have shot at Justine Damond.
There was no “slap” on the police car. It, like the claim of worry about an ambush in the lowest crime neighborhood in Minneapolis, were lies, attempts to excuse the inexcusable, and the jury and judge saw through them.
One of the great ironies of this case is many police officers are poor shots, even at point blank range. There are many instances of officers–and bad guys–emptying their weapons at each other at inside-a-phone-booth range, and entirely missing each other. But this time, Noor’s shot opened an artery in her abdomen, and she bled out within mere minutes. One un-aimed shot fired in a blind panic pronounced an unlawful death sentence, for her and those that love her. Noor is getting off lightly.
Prosecutor Amy Sweasy, Judge Katherine Quaintance, Bob Bennett, the attorney for the Ruszczyk family, and other deserve the praise of the public. In one of the most leftist cities in America, in this case, political correctness, against all odds, did not prevail, and Minneapolis has been hit, hard, in the pocketbook. It’s up to the citizens of that city to ensure things change. I’m not holding my breath.
Every police officer in America, if they have never taken to heart the reality their powers are on loan from the American people, and that they are not above the law, particularly when they kill innocents without justification, must look upon Mohamed Noor and say not: “there but for the grace of God go I.” This was not an accident, a mere unavoidable twist of fickle fate. Justine Damond’s death was the result of the thoughtless, politically inspired decisions of Minneapolis politicians and police bureaucrats that put someone like Mohamed Noor in a police car, that put two unfit rookies together.
Justine Damond’s death was the result of political correctness, incompetent supervision, negligent retention, and incompetent training. Every real police officer knows they may, at any time, be called upon to give their life to save others. Surely, they train–on their own time and dime–to give themselves the edge, to give themselves the knowledge, skill and presence of mind to be able to take the extra fractions of a second before pulling the trigger to be absolutely sure they’re right. But the fact remains; it must always remain: police officers, like soldiers, are there to beat back the forces of darkness. That may cost their life. For that we must honor those who serve honorably.
Mohamed Noor, Matthew Harrity, Sgt. Shannon Barnett, and a great many others did not, and Justine Damond is dead.
The SMM Justine Damond case archive is here.
UPDATE, 06-09-19, 0940 CST: Scott Johnson at Powerline has posted additional videos of victim impact statements, most notably, Justine’s close family members. They attended the trial, but remained in Australia for the sentencing. By all means, take the link and see them. One would need a heart of stone, or be a “Somali supporter,” as Johnson notes in his article, not to be moved to tears. We are truly diminished by the loss of Justine Damond, and Minneapolis continues to diminish itself by its electoral choices.
Mark E said:
Slap on the wrist
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Mark E
That’s the law in an ardently leftist state.
How did the defense propose to allow a convicted felon to ‘serve the community’?
Even in an unarmed position, how could he be trusted by the community?
Mike, your last paragraph really struck home. Over the decades of my life I have been contacted by both the Barney Fifes and the ‘real’ officers. Thinking of those events I can say that it was readily apparent who I had encountered.
(I do not have a criminal record, my encounters were either vehicle moving violations or mistaken identity. Of the latter, thrice I had been held at gunpoint, once while spread-eagled with a shotgun muzzle on my back.) I am thankful for the ‘real’ officers.
Mike, thank you for the excellent reporting.
Mike McDaniel said:
At least Barney Fife was well intentioned and never shot anyone.
That’s because Andy only let him have one bullet and assumed he would miss the first shot!
Well spoken Mike
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear upper ear:
Long awaited justice done. Now if only the local progs would get serious about looking into all the police malfeasance surrounding the “investigation” into the shooting.
Thanks for the updates and the links to the local reporters work.
Hope you are enjoying your summer vacation. I’ve got two weeks left before we end our school year.
Mike McDaniel said:
Thanks! I hope your all too brief vacation is rejuvenating. We’re back in school very early in August.
Have you heard anything about Harrity’s testimony contradicting Noor’s?
IIUC: (1) Noor claimed that Harrity was trying to draw his sidearm, but could not get it out of the holster, and (2) Harrity stated that he had already drawn his handgun, but had decided not to shoot, because he saw that the approaching person was not a threat.
If so, the contradiction may have proved that Noor was lying, which may have been key in the guilty verdict.
Mike McDaniel said:
I covered this issue extensively during the trial. It’s all in the SMM Damond archive.
You are, however, correct. While the jury has not yet specifically spoken on these issues, they told the judge the MPD was badly in need of reform. I’m sure Off. Harrity’s testimony helped to form that opinion.