GOP files ethics complaint after MN senator's arrest

Minnesota Republicans are pushing for an expedited investigation after DFL Senator Nicole Mitchell ‘s arrest this week for burglary.

Mitchell was absent for Wednesday's Senate floor session and votes were tabled for the day. In the Senate, the DFL only holds a one-vote majority, so Mitchell's vote would be critical for party-line issues.

Mitchell, who represents Woodbury, faces a count of first-degree burglary for allegedly breaking into her stepmother's home in Detroit Lakes. In a message on Tuesday, Mitchell claimed the incident was a misunderstanding, and she had no intention of stealing from the home, saying she had gone to check on a family member.

However, her public statements don't match up with what she told police when she was arrested, according to a criminal complaint. Speaking with officers, after being found dressed in all black and carrying a flashlight covered in a black sock, Mitchell reportedly admitted she had "did something bad."

Republican senators said they were upset the DFL had not asked Mitchell for her resignation or at least stripped her of committee memberships.

They filed an ethics complaint just before Wednesday’s session and on the Senate floor, Sen. Eric Lucero, (R)-Saint Michael, made a motion to expedite the ethics investigation.

"The trust of the public has been violated," said Sen. Lucero, (R-St. Michael) on Wednesday.

Accused legislators typically have up to 30 days before an ethics investigation would begin, but Republicans pointed out this session would be over by then.

Some Democrats argued against the measure, saying Mitchell should be allowed due process. The motion failed on a 33 to 33 vote. Republicans needed a two-thirds majority to move forward.

Sen. Mitchell has hired a Moorhead law firm to represent her and attorneys tell Fox 9 the criminal complaint may be misleading.

It "is designed only to cause a judge to determine that there is sufficient probable cause to charge someone with a crime," said attorney Bruce Ringstrom, Jr. "It fails to include exculpatory facts, such as how Senator Mitchell has a key to the residence in question; that she was only in possession of things that she actually owns; and that she was and is deeply concerned about the health and welfare of someone who has been a member of her family for 45 years."

After the session, Majority Leader Erin Murphy said she had spoken with Mitchell on Tuesday after she was released from jail. Murphy admitted Mitchell has a tough road ahead of her.

"I think it's important to acknowledge that we don't have all the facts," Murphy told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "Senator Mitchell is going to have to have a number of difficult conversations with her family and with the people who sent her here to represent them, and with her colleagues."

It's unclear when Mitchell will return to the Senate. Murphy said it’s possible Mitchell could be allowed to vote remotely. Republicans called out Mitchell for disrupting Senate business.

"Already today and tomorrow, Senator Mitchell is having an impact on the business of the Senate," said Minority Leader Mark Johnson. "We no longer have bills on the floor today or tomorrow and committees are being canceled. So, we need to get this resolved ASAP and we saw the Democrats punt this down the road."