Minnesota Supreme Court suspends prosecutor for false statements leading to rape case dismissal
The Minnesota Supreme Court has suspended Catherine McEnroe, a senior Hennepin County prosecutor, for 60 days and fined her $900 after a lie to a judge resulted in the dismissal of a rape case.
McEnroe, who has been with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office since 2013, was placed on leave a year ago, as the Star Tribune reported.
The court found McEnroe guilty of professional misconduct for making knowingly false statements during a criminal trial and engaging in dishonest conduct to cover up those false statements.
The disciplinary action was filed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility following the case dismissal in January last year.
McEnroe's suspension is part of public discipline for her actions. The court order highlights her involvement in "making knowingly false statements to a court and opposing counsel during a criminal trial and engaging in dishonest conduct to cover up the false statements."
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty made the decision to dismiss the case and place McEnroe on leave shortly after taking office.
Moriarty stated that dismissing the case was a last resort. The court order reveals that McEnroe's false statement was inconsequential, involving a note passed during the trial. However, it was the cover-up that led to the fallout.
McEnroe had lied to Judge Peter Cahill about the note's contents, and when questioned, she admitted to intentionally lying. While McEnroe's lie did not impact the case, it resulted in a dismissal on the motion of the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.
The Attorney's Defense
Moriarty defended the decision, emphasizing that McEnroe's dishonesty and the subsequent cover-up left no alternative. McEnroe and her attorney, Jeanette Bazis, declined to comment on the court's decision.
In response to the disciplinary action, Moriarty criticized the board, stating that they made assumptions about the situation without consulting her office.
She stressed the severity of lying to a judge and the pressure to cover up that lie, calling it "extremely serious."
McEnroe's suspension comes amid acknowledgment of extreme stress in her personal life, including the death of her former spouse in 2020 and caring for a special needs son. The court recognized McEnroe's deep remorse, accountability, and steps taken to address underlying issues.
However, it noted that the false statement had no substantive value and could not be explained, emphasizing the pressure she faced at the time.
The suspension is effective immediately, based on a stipulation entered by McEnroe in October, in which she admitted to the allegations described in the petition.