A Hennepin County judge has barred video recording during the sentencing next week for Allen Scarsella, the man convicted of shooting five Jamar Clark protesters.
Judge Hilary Caligiuri denied the media’s request to have cameras in the courtroom, saying video coverage of his sentencing would make Scarsella “a likely target for retribution.”
“The safety and well-being of Defendant and members of his family may be adversely affected by the video recording and broadcast of the sentencing proceedings,” she wrote.
Scarsella fought the media’s request to video-record his sentencing, with his lawyers arguing that it would put him in more danger when he is sent to prison. During a hearing on Feb. 24, James Shiffer, a Star Tribune editor, argued for allowing cameras in the courtroom, saying it would foster confidence in the administration of justice.
Caligiuri did allow audio recording of the sentencing, saying it would “allow accuracy in reporting and demonstrate the integrity of the criminal justice system, thus fostering public confidence in the law.”
A jury found Scarsella guilty in early February of several counts of first-degree assault and riot for shooting Black Lives Matter protesters near an encampment at the north Minneapolis police precinct. During the two-week trial the jury saw several racist text messages sent by Scarsella. In one text, he suggested putting a Confederate flag on a gun handle to antagonize a protester, he said, using a derogatory term. “That way you can shoot him.”
In another, he suggested a friend go with him to target practice “for when we have to shoot black guys.”
In denying the request to have cameras at Scarsella’s sentencing, Caligiuri said those same text messages would “by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace.”
The Hennepin County attorney’s office said it will seek the maximum 20 years in prison for Scarsella, but County Attorney Mike Freeman has noted that 12 to 17 years would be more likely.
Minnesota was known to have some of the most restrictive courtroom camera laws in the country until 2015, when the state Supreme Court approved a two-year pilot allowing cameras during a sentencing, but not during actual trials. That pilot will be re-evaluated next year.
Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626