Minneapolis cop accused of off-duty assaults pleads not guilty

Minneapolis Police Officer Michael Griffin entered a not guilty plea Thursday morning to all 9 federal charges he faces for allegedly assaulting several people at downtown bars while off-duty. Four of the charges involve using excessive force while off-duty, while the rest of the charges are about covering it up by falsifying reports and lying in depositions in two separate civil trials.

The charges

Deprivation of rights under color of law, 4 counts
Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations, 2 counts
Perjury at civil deposition, 2 counts
Perjury at civil trial, 1 count

Envy nightclub

According to the indictment and court documents, on May 29, 2010, Griffin was with a friend outside of Aqua nightclub in downtown Minneapolis when his friend began arguing with someone identified as I.R. Griffin displayed his badge and identified himself as a police officer. I.R. then walked to Envy nightclub about half a block away, but Griffin followed and punched him in the face until he was unconscious.

Griffin then approached two on-duty Minneapolis officers, told them to arrest him and wrote a police report "falsely indicating that I.R. tried to attack Griffin and that Griffin only punched I.R. after attempting to sweep his legs out from under him."

I.R. was charged subsequently with assaulting a police officer, which the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office later dismissed.

The Loop

On Nov. 5, 2011, Griffin, while off-duty, threatened to have 4 men thrown out of The Loop bar. Court documents say Griffin approached the bouncer, identified himself as a police officer, displayed his badge, directed the bouncer to throw the 4 men out of the bar, and the bouncer complied.

Griffin followed the men out and said he was going to call "his boys." His partner showed up in a squad car to take one of the men into custody. One of the man's friends asked where his friend was being taken, and Griffin grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground.  Griffin ordered one of the men to get out of the car and walk to a loading dock area where Griffin kicked him in the chest and knocked him down. One of the other men in the group followed and Griffin punched him in the head from behind, knocked him down and kicked him in the head. 

Griffin is accused of making a false police report, and as a result, one of the men was arrested for obstructing a police officer with force. Those charges were also dismissed. In Griffin's report, he said the 4 men had surrounded him on the dance floor and threatened to "kick his ass." He also falsely reported that a bouncer had warned him not to go outside of the bar because the men were waiting for him.

‘Perfect storm of lies'

Paul Applebaum is the lawyer who won a civil lawsuit against Griffin and the city of Minneapolis in 2013, and he calls this indictment "a perfect storm of lies that came together."

"I think the feds were correct in looking into this officer," Applebaum said. "They have such an incredible amount of power when they're on the streets and if there isn't some sort of oversight, this is the kind of thing that can happen."

In his civil case, Applebaum presented surveillance photos and a 911 call from one of his clients, who wasn't sure what to believe.

"I need another police officer here, a real police officer," the caller said. "I'm not sure if he's an officer. He's in plain clothes and says he's an officer, but I'm not sure if he is or not."

Out of jail, suspended from force

Officer Griffin is out of jail on $25,000 bond and he's currently suspended from the Minneapolis Police Department. He will be back in court for a motion hearing this summer. When the case goes to trial, it will be moved to St. Paul.

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