John’s Record

Innovative Leadership. Proven Results.

Combating Sex Trafficking: the selling of our children for sex

Sex trafficking is the biggest human rights atrocity in our state – and it’s happening before our very eyes. On any given night in our community, children are sold to adults for sex. Traffickers prey on vulnerable victims and those children are abused, tortured, beaten, raped, plied with drugs and alcohol, and forced to do things no child would ever want to do.

Working with a statewide coalition of partners, John has been able to:

  • Convene his colleagues across the state to publicly declare that they would no longer prosecute children for prostitution, but instead treat them as the victims they are.
  • More than double the number of cases the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has charged, including bringing down a sizable trafficking ring with law enforcement partners in Saint Paul that resulted in landmark prison sentences of 36 and 40 years.
  • Implement a victim-centered approach to working with children who have been sold for sex, which has not only helped the victims, but increased our ability to identify and prosecute the people who sell our children for sex.
  • Work with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota to raise awareness with kids, parents, and community leaders to help prevent this modern day slavery and rescue kids who are already trapped.
  • Advance legislation at the Capitol to secure $2.8 million to fund a new statewide director, six regional navigators, safe shelter, and statewide training to enhance our systemic, comprehensive response to this horrific crime.

Reuniting Families

Every year, teens languish in the foster care system without being adopted. In some cases, parents have gotten their lives back together and have stable homes to provide for their children. It’s now possible for them to be reunited.

Alongside statewide colleagues, legal and family advocacy organizations, and human services agencies, John was able to pass a new law, “The Family Reunification Act,” to provide an opportunity – in select circumstances – for unadopted teens to be reunited with their families when it’s in their best interest.

Preventing Auto Theft

Ramsey County has more than 2500 auto thefts every year. Thieves quickly figured out that if a vehicle was more than six years old, they didn’t need a title to scrap it. Now they do.

By bringing the scrap metal industry, auto recyclers, and dealers together with law enforcement, John was able to strengthen state laws to prevent auto thieves from stealing cars and scrapping them, often before owners even noticed they were gone. Now titles are required to scrap vehicles and sales will be tracked in an online database so industry members and law enforcement can work together to reduce incentives to steal cars and other metals and to catch the thieves who do.

Enhancing Services for Veterans

Re-entry into civilian life can be challenging for veterans returning from duty. Homelessness, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma and PTSD are all too often collateral consequences of service that can contribute to entry into the criminal justice system. Now, public agencies have teamed up to help.

Alongside judges, prosecutors, public defenders, veterans advocates, and veterans themselves, John has been able to develop a Veteran’s Court to identify veterans as they enter the criminal justice system and connect them to the services they’ve earned to address any underlying issues.

Promoting Victim Safety

In the last 10 years, 36 women and 23 children in Ramsey County were murdered as a result of domestic violence. Thousands more are impacted on a daily basis. Of the cases that reach the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, 70% involve children.

By working with public safety agencies, courts, and the legislature, John has been able to pilot the use of GPS technology to help keep victims safe in domestic abuse situations. Using GPS technology helps track offenders and ensure they comply with no-contact orders to keep victims safe until their cases can be heard in court.

Demonstrated Leadership as Saint Paul City Attorney

As the former Saint Paul City Attorney, John managed a public law and prosecution office of 70 employees with an $8 million budget. Throughout his tenure, John brought innovation and reform to the criminal justice system.

Proven Results:

Combatting Criminal Gangs. Criminal gangs threaten the safety of our community. John worked with the Legislature and Police to develop a new tool – civil gang injunctions – to prevent gang members from associating with each other at neighborhood festivals. By sending a message to gangs that we will not tolerate criminal gang activity in our community, Saint Paul residents have been able to enjoy these events without fear of gang violence.

Leading in Restorative Justice. After learning that obstructing legal process (OLP) cases were at an all-time high in the city, John brought the NAACP and Saint Paul police together to discuss perspectives and develop a training for police. As a result, these cases have decreased by 30%. In addition, John used a restorative justice model to bring the police, prosecutor, and offender together to resolve several pending cases.

Creating Innovative Diversion Programs. Created innovative diversion and restorative justice programs in the area of bad check prosecutions, invalid license cases and obstructing legal process arrests. Courts are burdened by a revolving door of unlicensed drivers who get caught in the system, many of whom lose their licenses due to unpaid fines for tickets. Previously, the City would fine offenders and repeatedly suspend their licenses. Wanting to end the cycle, John worked with Legislators to create a diversion program to provide these individuals a responsible path to get their licenses back. In addition to paying off their fees, offenders must take a class to learn how to manage their finances and make better life choices. This effective intervention will result in decreased court costs, and more valid drivers on the road who are not only paying for their consequences, but are also educated to prevent them from coming back to the system.

Preventing Domestic Abuse. An average of eight times a night, Saint Paul police arrive at a domestic abuse call to find that the offender has left before they arrive. In the past, the files for those cases could sit on an attorney’s desk for weeks before being reviewed. John worked with the police department to create Blueprint for Safety, so now a police officer and prosecutor personally review those files each morning and evaluate them according to a threat assessment. For those victims at greatest risk, officers are sent out to apprehend the perpetrator the same day and file charges immediately. Because John made these cases a priority, Blueprint for Safety is effectively saving lives and keeping victims and the broader community safe.

Additional Experience. In collaboration with other public safety officials, John worked tirelessly to reform the criminal justice system. John’s innovative efforts include:

  • Fostering the creation of the first elder abuse prosecution unit in Minnesota;
  • Working with state legislators to develop civil gang injunction legislation to fight criminal gangs;
  • Creating a National Multi-City Litigation Working Group to combat the foreclosure crisis; and
  • Leading a successful effort to ban imitation toy guns that threaten the safety of police officers and residents.